Front Rudder – by Mark Reid
Hollywood Goes Sailing… Again!
So far, the 2020 sailing season has been a wash. Certainly, washed up. I have little need to remind anyone as to why. We all know. The quicker we can put this year in the rearview mirror, the better.
Usually in tough times we can take in a movie to escape reality for a few hours. Unfortunately, not this year. Drive-ins are few and far between. My DVD player needs a rest as well.
When the St. Francis Yacht Club rightfully pulled the plug on the Rolex Big Boat Series, that ended my last chance at normalcy this year. Even going down to New Zealand is in doubt with recent reoccurrences after 100 days of no new cases. Not sure if postponement is in the cards for the America’s Cup.
Which brings us back to movies. What are the best sailing movies or the ones with the best sailing action in them? No, not Captain Ron, the Caddyshack of cinema comedy sailing. Not Waterworld either. Ugh, that was depressing. It does answer the question as to what happened with used trimarans.
For most of us who love the America’s Cup, Wind comes to mind. Certainly, it does for StFYC Staff Commodore Kimball Livingston, who was credited as one of the screenplay writers.
I like watching Wind. Especially the Newport, RI sailing scenes and the iconic Ida Lewis Yacht Club. The story folds in bits of AC drama from 1983 through 1988, with homage to the Nevada desert. Was that North Sails “genesis” moment to move to Minden?
Adrift from 2018 was pretty dark, as was Robert Redford’s survival tale in All is Lost.
Maiden was awesome, and the Wind Gods documented the 2010 DoG with the Godzilla multihulls. I’m sure there are others that strike people’s fancy, but now comes Tenet to theaters and I am chomping at the bit to see it. Long before I heard that there was insane sailing footage in it, this was on my radar or GPS!
SailGP makes its Hollywood debut when two F50s, the world’s fastest racing sailboats take a starring role in the summer’s big blockbuster Tenet, a new sci-fi spy thriller by acclaimed director Christopher Nolan (Batman, Interstellar).
The much-anticipated movie, starring John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Caine and Kenneth Branagh was filmed across the world in seven locations, including Southampton, UK. When the script required an epic sailing scene, SailGP answered the call.
Following Cowes SailGP in August 2019, two F50s (the Japan and U.S. boats) were rebranded exclusively for the Hollywood movie and SailGP’s world-class athletes took part in the filming, although it will be a struggle to spot them thanks to the magic of cinematography.
USA SailGP helm Rome Kirby and SailGP Season 1 Champion Tom Slingsby of the Australia team were two of the athletes involved, and they spent a week at the helm of the F50s – one white and one blue setting up dramatic boat-on-boat scenes in the Solent under the watchful eye of Nolan from a helicopter.
Famed for his directing roles in Inception, Dunkirk and the Dark Knight trilogy, no stone was left unturned to get the epic shots required in the script, although the plot was a closely guarded secret.
“When news reached us that SailGP would be featured in a Hollywood movie, everyone wanted to be involved,” said Slingsby. “It was one of those things you hear and think that it would be cool, but would never happen. It was amazing to get a little insight into Hollywood, and it was a fun project to be part of. I can’t wait to see the movie.
“But the best thing for me is that people will see for the first time the F50s in full flight on the big screen, and that will bring a completely new audience to SailGP. Hopefully it will change people’s perception of the sport and they will come and see us in real life.”
While SailGP is certainly a logistical feat involving national teams from around the world, multiple global events and the world’s top athletes, the Hollywood production was another level. Based out of Southampton docks, the filming involved multiple helicopters, chase boats, hi-tech camera boats, IMAX cameras, production staff and a team of hair and make-up, which Kirby got to experience first-hand.
“In the script, the white boat was helmed by the character played by Debicki,” explained Kirby. “In the real world very few people are equipped to handle an F50, and while Debicki already had a stunt double who had more than a passing resemblance to the Australian actress even in a blonde wig, I didn’t really cut it as a Hollywood leading lady.
“It was amazing to be a part of. We shot scene after scene, scenario after scenario trying to get as close to each other as possible. We didn’t know how the pieces fit together or where it would feature in the movie, but I think it will be a pretty prominent scene.”
SailGP CEO Sir Russell Coutts said, “It was a privilege to be approached to feature in the movie and a testament to our incredible boats that we got the call.
“The exciting thing is that so many more people around the globe will get to witness the speed and dramatic nature of these incredible flying machines. Hopefully they will come and see us in the flesh when SailGP gets underway again in April 2021.”
When Nolan wanted the most cutting-edge boat for his new summer blockbuster, Tenet, the F50 was the ultimate choice. It led to a unique partnership between SailGP and Hollywood, and gave Rome Kirby and Tom Slingsby the chance to appear on the big screen.
As they turned for another run along the Solent off the southern coast of England, Rome Kirby and Tom Slingsby were preparing for another race on the F50s. A flotilla of other craft were chasing them in the water, and helicopters filled the skies above. This time it would be closer than before. Up in the air, Christopher Nolan, the Hollywood director, shouted “Action!” This wasn’t SailGP, this was fantasy.
The week prior, Slingsby had guided the Australia SailGP team to victory in the penultimate event of SailGP’s inaugural season at Cowes, UK. Now he was playing a supporting role to Kirby in the movie.
Nolan is not a man to do things part way. When he filmed Dunkirk, real World War II battleships were used. So, when the plot of Tenet called for cutting-edge boats, SailGP was the place to go, even if, when approached, Kirby thought it might be a joke.
“A friend of mine told me a contact in Hollywood had gotten hold of him and said they wanted to use some kind of foiling platform in the movie,” Kirby said. “I then had a meeting with the head of marine operations for the film. Large-scale movies on water are his thing, whether it be Dunkirk, Captain Phillips or the Pirates of the Caribbean series.
“They wanted the 50s in the movie,” Kirby said. “I kind of laughed and said, that’s going to cost money.”
While the film crew wanted to ship the boats to the Amalfi Coast, SailGP was in the middle of its first season, but offered an alternative.
“I said, ‘Come to Cowes after our event.’ So, they shifted the entire movie production and set to Cowes from the Amalfi Coast, and we shot for two weeks. It was pretty full on.”
While Kirby would be on one F50 when news spread of the unique opportunity, everyone wanted to be involved.
Slingsby said, “Sure enough, Nolan was serious. He came to a couple of SailGP events, loved it and thought they would be great in his movie. There was a bit of competition when we heard it was happening, about who gets to go on the boats, just to say you are part of it.
“The production team decided they wanted one blue and one white boat. So, we removed all the branding off the U.S. F50 to make it solid blue, and all the branding off the Japan boat to make it all white.”
“He keeps that stuff pretty tight to his chest,” Kirby said. “We didn’t know fully what we were filming or where it would be in the movie.
“We did quite a bit of sailing side by side with choppers in the air. It was quite the production. Tom and I got the boats as close as possible. They are using these big IMAX cameras, so they have limited time. They can do three to five minutes of shooting before they have to go and land, change film and come back out. It was definitely a process.”
The first problem though, was that despite having attended SailGP events, the filmmakers underestimated just how fast the F50s go. Soon they found that only the helicopter had a chance of keeping up.
“They had this super high-tech camera boat with millions and millions of dollars’ worth of equipment on it, and when they got there they said ‘We have got the boat, we can do whatever shots you want,’” Slingsby said.
“One of the sailors asked, ‘How quick does your powerboat go?’ They said it did about 14 knots, which they thought was pretty cool. And we said we don’t start foiling (flying above the water) until 16 or 17 knots. So, then they thought there may be a problem.
“We can sit between 30 and 40 knots quite comfortably in the right conditions, which we had on the days we filmed. The camera boat couldn’t keep up, so the solution was to give it a head start.
“We had to wait for the camera boat to get well ahead of us. Then we would take off after it, and go blasting past, then have to stop.
“Then they would be stationary and we would do a maneuver around the boat. The good times were when we were told to get as close as we can.”
It all made for a different work environment from the usual Hollywood sound stage. Not only did the filmmakers have to work around what the F50s would do, but also what the English weather would deliver as Hoyte van Hoytema, the director of photography, explained.
“We were very much at the mercy of what is and is not possible with these boats,” van Hoytema said. “That was difficult because, as a film crew you are used to setting the pace. We would be filming, getting into the rhythm and finding interesting shots, and suddenly the wind would come up and we’d have to go back. These boats are incredible, and in many ways it was a beautiful experience, but it could also be frustrating because we were not the ones setting the pace. It was the elements that did that.”
For closeups and dialogue, a “buck” was built as a replica of an F50 hull which was strapped to a bigger boat. But the actors got a pretty first-hand respect for what the F50s can do.
“Those things are intense,” Washington said. “They were just high flying, and I was thinking, ‘Are you kidding me?’ But I couldn’t be timid about it, especially seeing Chris and Hoyte strapped to the middle filming us. They were just in heaven loving every minute. It was so much fun. Smooth sailing!”
“My part is a blonde woman in the movie,” Kirby said. “I was the stunt double to the stunt double.
“Our shoulders aren’t quite the same size. I’m about six inches taller than both of them and about 100 pounds heavier. There wasn’t a lot of similarity. There were these two women and then there was me. We got a picture of the three of us together.
“I’m sure all my buddies when they see it will be saying ‘There you are.’
“Watching Kirby head off to hair and make-up every morning was a source of constant entertainment to Slingsby and the rest of the SailGP athletes.
“He had to spend two hours in make-up, come down with a wig on and dressed in women’s clothes,” Slingsby said. “We had countless hours laughing at him.”
Some may look out for when Kirby (with or without the wig) and Slingsby are in shot, others may be on the lookout for any local landmarks that reveal they are sailing in the English Channel rather than the Mediterranean.
“It is supposed to look like the Amalfi Coast which is a bit different from the English coastal backdrop we had, but we did some filming by the Needles and some cliffs off the Isle of Wight, and it should look pretty cool,” Slingsby said.
“There were plenty of action scenes of people falling off and near-crashes, so we had to do our best to put our boats as close as we could. We had helicopters and we were sailing as close as we could to each other. It was quite something.
“We didn’t have the actors on our boat, but it was really fun to see it all going on. It was really exciting.
“We had a helicopter out there filming one day when we had 25 or 26 knots of wind. It is a pretty surreal feeling having all these helicopters flying really close to the boats and seeing Nolan up in the pilot seat. It was something I really feel lucky to have been part of.”
Debicki did get to taste life on board the F50 though, and it was an experience not to be forgotten.
“When the three of us were hanging on the side and the boat lifted out of the water, I’ve never felt anything like it,” Debicki said. “It was exhilarating but quite terrifying actually…c ertainly for people who aren’t trained sailors. But that is one of the gifts of a Nolan film: you find yourself in situations you would otherwise never ever learn to navigate, inhabit or even witness.”
There was little time to settle into a movie star lifestyle though.
“We had a limited amount of time, and keep in mind we had just finished a big event in Cowes and then to do another two weeks on the Solent we were pretty tired,” Kirby said. “To go screaming down the Solent at 45 knots every day was pretty full-on. It was all business.
“I got a little insight into Hollywood. It was a fun project to be a part of. I’m looking forward to seeing it.”
“I haven’t seen one camera take of the actual film, but the footage should look unbelievable compared to what we normally see,” Slingsby said.
“You have to guess that 90-95 percent of the people who will watch this movie don’t have any idea about sailing. If it comes off amazingly, they might think “They race these things internationally? I’d love to see that.’
“That’s good. We want more people to learn about sailing and SailGP, and that’s what we are trying to do.”
SailGP Statement On Race
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been listening, watching and reflecting. Recent and ongoing events have been incredibly tragic and SailGP stands squarely behind efforts to combat social injustice and racism, which have no place in any society.
Though SailGP brings together athletes and staff from around the world representing various cultures and ethnicities, our sport severely lacks racial diversity. This has been an issue from well before our inception as a global sports league last year, and we recognize that inaction and complacency are totally unacceptable and add to the problem.
We can and will do better. The time is now for meaningful and overdue action. We have formed a committee to prioritize this issue today and, in the future, and will soon share steps we will take to accelerate change in and around our league, which we hope will propagate across our sport.
Black lives matter and we pledge to take a leadership role within the sailing community until our sport becomes truly inclusive and welcoming to all.
Team New Zealand Enters The Fray
Olympic gold medalists and defending America’s Cup champions, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke will join SailGP starting in the league’s second season as part of the newly formed New Zealand SailGP team. The pair will serve as co-CEOs of the team, and will begin racing when the championship returns in April 2021 with the first grand prix of the season set for San Francisco.
Launched in 2018, SailGP features rival national teams battling it out on the water in iconic harbors around the globe. The inshore stadium racing takes place on the F50 catamaran, which holds the title of World Sailing Boat of the Year after setting a speed record last year.
Burling said, “We are really proud to represent Aotearoa in what is shaping up to be one of our sport’s premier events. SailGP provides an annual platform for professional high-performance sailing on the global stage, which strongly complements our existing America’s Cup and Olympic commitments. We will bring a competitive team to the championship and look forward to building a collective of partners that align with our sporting and environmental values.”
Burling and Tuke have been paired on the water since 2008 and have since collected two Olympic medals and six world titles together in the 49er class. They were jointly named World Sailor of the Year in 2015, while Burling added the honor again in 2017 after helming Emirates Team New Zealand to an America’s Cup victory at just 26 years old. The duo will be seeking their second America’s Cup title in March on home waters in Auckland before aiming for a return to the top of the podium at the postponed Olympic Games in Tokyo.
SailGP CEO Sir Russell Coutts said, “A New Zealand team has been on SailGP’s radar from our inception, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Pete and Blair to the league. They are among the best of the best in the world, and will no doubt be incredibly competitive in SailGP.
We’re offering something new and exciting that joins entertainment with best-in-class technology and leading sustainable practices, and it is not only attracting new fans but the top sailors in the world.”
The team will partner with Live Ocean Racing, a conduit between the pair’s ocean conservation charity Live Ocean and their sailing endeavors. Live Ocean Racing will be dedicated to using the SailGP championship to raise awareness of the charity’s mission to protect and restore the ocean, aligning with SailGP’s overall focus on sustainability and clean energy solutions.
Tuke said, “With SailGP’s significant global audience, there is an opportunity to really move the needle on the urgent need for a healthy ocean. Our aim is to build a winning, commercially viable race team from New Zealand that has ocean protection and restoration in its DNA.”
The pair remains fully committed to their defense of the America’s Cup with Emirates Team New Zealand and winning another gold medal at the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games.
SailGP Season 2 events were postponed due to COVID-19, and will restart in San Francisco and New York in April and June of next year. Following the U.S. leg of the championship, grand prix events will take place in each of the European team markets: the UK, Denmark, France and Spain. The league plans to hold 7-9 events as part of Season 2 and will feature racing in the Australia/New Zealand region in the early part of 2022.
ETNZ Cleared Of Impropriety
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), in consultation with host partner Auckland Council has completed its audit into allegations made against Emirates Team New Zealand Limited (ETNZ) and America’s Cup Event Limited (ACE).
The Beattie Varley report found that there was no evidence of financial impropriety or misappropriation of funds. The report also found there was no loan from ACE to ETNZ, there was no fraud by ACE or ETNZ and that no personal expenses of Grant Dalton or any other personnel were paid from Crown monies. Most importantly was that there has been no financial impropriety of any nature.
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Chief Executive Carolyn Tremain said, “While it’s excellent to confirm that there has been no financial impropriety and the escalation process has concluded, the Beattie Varley report had raised some concerns around record keeping relating to several historical matters.”
The process began after MBIE and Auckland Council (as Hosts) were made aware of claims relating to the organization of the 36th America’s Cup which prompted an investigation by forensic accountants Beattie Varley and triggered an escalation process under the Host Venue Agreement.
“It was important to work through the audit process to confirm that there was no financial impropriety or misappropriation of funds,” said Carolyn Tremain.
The matter regarding the third-party fraud that ACE/ETNZ were a victim of has been satisfactorily resolved from MBIE’s perspective. MBIE is satisfied that any loss as a result of this scam won’t be paid for by any Crown investment.
The Beattie Varley report noted that a contractual disagreement was outstanding, regarding whether the AC36 Event and Class Design Costs are costs that should be borne by the event, and therefore ultimately, by Crown investment. The parties have agreed to go to mediation on this issue.
“There is no wrongdoing in this regard and the processes for resolving contractual disagreements are well established and we look forward to continuing to work constructively together on this matter,” said Tremain. “ETNZ and ACE have a different view from MBIE on whether the AC36 Event and Class Design Costs should be borne by the event.”
ETNZ and ACE CEO Grant Dalton said “With the departure of the previous event managers, we have undertaken a thorough review of our personnel and we have the team to deliver on the event. We have engaged, experienced and respected senior event professionals to lead the event preparations.”
“It is in all of our interests that we continue to work together to deliver a successful event,” said Tremain. “Hosts acknowledge the positive progress ACE has made with regard to delivery planning and resourcing. Our expectation is that operational matters will continue to be resolved at the project management level. The Crown is satisfied to reinstate investment, and once the appropriate contractual deliverables have been met, the next payment under the HVA can be made.”
“The America’s Cup is an important event for Auckland, New Zealand and even more so as we work through and recover from the impacts of COVID-19. I look forward to working closely with ACE to deliver a world-class event we can all be proud of.”
Sir Stephen Tindall, Chairman of ETNZ, said, “we are pleased to have this behind us and ACE can now focus on putting on a great spectacle, and ETNZ on keeping the Cup in New Zealand.”
Stars & Stripes Likely Out
Stars & Stripes Team USA, the representative team of Long Beach Yacht Club, filed an application requesting the Arbitration Panel to confirm that the “constructed-in-the-country” requirements contained in the Deed of Gift and in the Protocol apply only to the Match, and not to any other event of the 36th America’s Cup presented by PRADA (AC36).
After examining the submissions of all the competitors, the Panel has ruled that the “constructed-in-the-country” requirements indeed apply to all events of the 36th America’s Cup presented by PRADA, including the Preliminary Races and the Prada Cup Challenger Selection Series, and not only to the Final Match. The Panel has therefore dismissed the application of Stars & Stripes Team USA.
The Panel has also confirmed that, as things currently stand, Stars & Stripes Team USA, as an accepted Challenger is not precluded from competing in the AC36, provided that it complies with its pending financial obligations and competes with a yacht complying with the “constructed-in-the-country” requirements.
Peter Montgomery And Ed Baird Elected To AC HoF
The Herreshoff Marine Museum / America’s Cup Hall of Fame revealed Peter Montgomery and Ed Baird are the Class of 2021 inductees of the America’s Cup Hall of Fame. They will be formally inducted in March 2021.
The America’s Cup Hall of Fame has inducted over 90 individuals since its founding in 1992. Candidates eligible for consideration include members of the crew, designers, builders, syndicate leaders, supporters, chroniclers and other individuals of merit.
Each nominee is judged on the basis of outstanding ability, international recognition, character, performance and contributions to the sport. The members of the selection committee are intimate with the history and traditions of the America’s Cup and are committed to the integrity of the Hall of Fame.
From Newport in 1980 onwards, Peter “PJ” Montgomery covered 12 America’s Cup series through a period of profound change as a broadcaster and as the “Voice of the America’s Cup.” His distinctive delivery and riveting commentary have captured, entertained and informed audiences, making him an instantly recognizable and popular figure in the America’s Cup. Montgomery’s commentary captivated not just sailors but millions of non-sailors, converting many into knowledgeable fans of the sport. This growth in the mainstream public’s interest in the America’s Cup fostered commercial and government support for the Cup, encouraging new teams and new countries to compete for yachting’s oldest prize.
When Hollywood produced Wind, a feature length movie about the Cup, Montgomery was invited to play the commentator.
Montgomery helped convince Michael Fay to lead New Zealand’s first America’s Cup challenge. KZ-7 made an impressive debut in the 1986-87 series, finishing as a runner-up in the challenger trials. This promising start led to New Zealand’s long record of participation and eventual America’s Cup victories. Without his enthusiasm and strong support of sailing, it is doubtful New Zealand would have entered the international world of sailing in the way that it did in the latter part of the 20th century.
Over his fifty-year career, Montgomery strove for accuracy, earning the trust of his audience and the sports competitors. As a result, he has earned recognition in his home country and overseas, including “Sports Journalist of the Year” and several “Sports Broadcaster of the Year” awards. In 2021, he will be the first chronicler from New Zealand to be inducted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame.
Ed Baird is a two-time winner of the America’s Cup as coach of Team New Zealand in 1995, and as helmsman of Team Alinghi in 2007. In 1995, Baird’s guidance on match racing tactics and work as tune-up skipper contributed to Team New Zealand’s success in San Diego, where they defeated the defender led by Dennis Conner in five straight races.
“My experience with Team New Zealand was incredible because it really opened my eyes to the levels people could reach,” recalls Baird. “I thought I knew a lot of the better sailors in the world until I got onto that team and realized there was another substantial step up. It was also impressive to be in a group that was pushing the limits in many areas of the sport, but that was also on a very limited budget.”
Later that year, Baird went on to win the IYRU Match Racing World Championship as a further testimony of his exceptional racing skills.
For the next America’s Cup cycle, Baird was the skipper of the New York Yacht Club’s America’s Cup challenge in 2000. The club had high hopes for winning the Cup, but fell into trouble when its fast but fragile boat, Young America, split in half during a race in Nov 1999. It was a crushing setback and the team never recovered.
During the 2003 America’s Cup, Ed Baird and fellow Class of 2021 inductee, Peter Montgomery, were co-commentators for both TV New Zealand and OLN’s coverage of the Cup series in Auckland.
After Switzerland’s Team Alinghi captured the America’s Cup in 2003, it hired Baird as a helmsman for the team’s defense in 2007. The 2007 America’s Cup was a close match, but Baird and Skipper Brad Butterworth kept their cool against their former team and challenger, Emirates Team New Zealand.
The most exciting moment was at the end of Race 7. A sudden late wind shift gave New Zealand the lead just before the finish, but the Kiwis had to perform a penalty turn before crossing the finish line. While New Zealand was completing its turn, Alinghi skillfully regained the lead and won the race by just one second to successfully defend the Cup with a 5 to 2 series score.
Baird was named the International Sailing Federation’s Rolex Sailor of the Year for the achievement.
Baird continues to be very active at a grand prix level, but also enjoys supporting his sons’ efforts to reach the top of the sport.
American Magic In Auckland
American Magic has been busy at work since hitting the water in New Zealand. The team’s AC75 racing yacht, Defiant, had been dormant since concluding its final training day at the team’s winter base in Pensacola, Florida in early March. A combination of cancelled America’s Cup World Series events in Europe, the team’s COVID-19 safety precautions in Pensacola and a 9,000+ mile ocean journey to New Zealand kept the team on shore for nearly five months. While logistics, design work, the production of American Magic’s second AC75 and other projects kept the 145+ person Challenger busy, a return to sailing was welcome.
“It’s just nice to be back to doing what we’re meant to be doing,” said Terry Hutchinson,Skipper and Executive Director of American Magic. “We had perfect conditions to be out in the harbor, and out in the Hauraki Gulf. It wasn’t too windy, perfectly flat water. Reminds you a lot of Pensacola.
In terms of the team’s overall plan, Hutchinson said that despite all of the unexpected challenges brought on by COVID-19, the campaign for the America’s Cup was on track. “When we started our planning prior to COVID-19, it always had us sailing in early August here in New Zealand,” said Hutchinson after a valuable day of testing equipment and systems. “Reliability, performance and racing are all completely linked together. And with the boat, it was great to see everything working reasonably well. To bring it together as a team is a great effort by everybody involved. There were a lot of pieces to the puzzle.”
A theme throughout the world of high-performance sailing, from junior events to the Olympic Games and to the America’s Cup, is that time spent at the racing venue correlates to racing success. Even when competing on a boat as advanced as an AC75, knowledge of the venue remains a key part of any Cup winning equation.
“There is a high priority of sailing at the venue, of getting our team settled at the venue and of learning,” said Hutchinson. “A lot of us have raced on what is probably the main race course, and we’re going to use that. But some of us haven’t sailed on the other courses. I’m a big believer in being settled as a team and having us focus day in and day out on the sailing. Moving to Auckland at this stage has allowed us to do that.”
Thank you to the SailGP and America’s Cup media teams for their contributions to this month’s column. Write me at email@example.com.