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Bob Grieser photo

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Grant Simmer

Grant Simmer's America’s Cup career began in 1983 when the 27-year-old mechanical engineer became navigator aboard Australia II. The Australian Challenger made racing history by ending 132 years of American Cup supremacy and the longest winning streak in the history of sport. "As a first-timer, one of the things I learned about being on a team—even a small team like Australia II's—was to concentrate on my responsibilities," said Simmer. Since that momentous win, Simmer has had diverse roles and responsibilities in five America’s Cup challenges.

In 2000, Simmer gave up his longtime partnership with North Sails Australia to focus completely on his new position as the design team coordinator for the Swiss Challenger, Alinghi. After a successful challenge against Team New Zealand in 2003, Simmer assumed the position of General Manager and Coordinator of the Alinghi design team, putting his talents to work for a triumphant win at the 2007 America’s Cup.Alinghi Design Team

An Interview with Grant Simmer

1/1/2007

Alinghi

Bob Grieser photo

Alinghi Team-Oriented Management Structure
We have a flat management structure. We’ve been at this game since 2000 and are quite mature in terms of experience within the team. The people in each department know their jobs and what they have to do. We have regular coordination meetings between departments, but they are quite autonomous in getting things done. Everyone has a clear goal of winning the America’s Cup and as a team we are pretty happy and confident.

Winch Systems on Winning 2007 America’s Cup Boat
The winch systems we have on the boats are complicated, with overdrives, clutches, and pedestals connected together. Having the right amount of power on each winch is critical to a successful maneuver. The difference in maneuvers—gybing, tacking, hoists, drops—has proven a deciding element in close racing. We need a winch system with the maximum amount of flexibility, to adjust both the ratios and the amount of horsepower on the drum at any point in time. Grinders must be incredibly strong and fit, but also able to anticipate and select the right gear at the right time. Having these systems work correctly is absolutely critical to the way we sail these boats.

Harken System Efficiency
The biggest thing we’ve been working on with Harken and our winch team is improving system efficiency by working hard on the installations, integrating them into the structure of the boat. When you sail on SUI 91* and 100 compared to SUI 64, even for a little guy like me you can’t believe the difference in power you get from the drums because of the improved efficiency throughout the whole winch system. That’s due to the work that Harken has put in, but our winch team has also done a really nice job integrating them into the structure of the boat.

In a program this big, you develop a relationship with the people you work with. We spent a lot of time at the Harken factory in Italy and have a great relationship with the guys there. That’s worked well for us.

Moving Forward
The winches are as complicated as they’re going to get in terms of the systems aboard the boats. As we move forward to the next America’s Cup the two things I’ll be looking for are efficiency and weight reduction.
Alinghi Team-Oriented Management Structure
We have a flat management structure. We’ve been at this game since 2000 and are quite mature in terms of experience within the team. The people in each department know their jobs and what they have to do. We have regular coordination meetings between departments, but they are quite autonomous in getting things done. Everyone has a clear goal of winning the America’s Cup and as a team we are pretty happy and confident.

Pedestal WinchesEventually, I think the rules about stored energy will need to be changed in America’s Cup racing with more lever-control systems, both in terms of gear-changing and tacking. I think there will be systems in place where you might tack and the jib car moves forward automatically and then drops back to the same position. You can do a lot of things if you have a little bit of stored energy aboard.

We tried very hard to do that in the 2003 Cup. We had a sophisticated control system and put some hydraulics on the boat, but got knocked back on the stored energy rule. For the 2007 Cup, the rule was really changed to limit stored energy on the boat to shock cord and things like that. I think long-term we’re going to have to allow stored energy systems aboard. I know that’s not consistent with saying it should be a physical race. The America’s Cup should still be a physical contest because it’s seen as a sports event with grinders, and that’s all part of the appeal to the public. I think taking that away would be a mistake.

This IACC is so highly developed—it’s time to develop a new class. The boats will be bigger, faster, and very physical to sail. The Cup’s always been about technology and we can’t lose that; the way to stimulate the technology is to throw in a new class.

*SUI 91 - First of two boats developed for 32nd America’s Cup campaign
SUI 100 - Successful Defender of the 32 America’s Cup
SUI 64 - Successful Challenger of the 31st America’s Cup

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