Yesterday the Spanish sky was a brilliant azure and morning temperatures easily exceeded 20ºC. Merely a small breeze could be felt in the port when BANK called to depart the dock at 1030 hours local time. A first test had taken place the day before - after a little miracle had happened. After the former Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team's (ITA) conversion into a version five boat in a record breaking six days, United Internet Team Germany's yacht had been finished by the shore crew working up to the small hours in double shifts. 'The whole crew has stood their second test,' reported Technical Director Eberhard MAGG (GER), who had been on board himself during the test. The rigging is up, the sail shapes are okay, the steering gear fits, the redesigned keel and all other high-tech equipment had all been mounted in a minimum of time.
'It is unusual to be out on the water as quickly as that with a modified AC yacht', said BANK. 'We can now make the most of the remaining seven training days alongside the official measurement to exercise the manoeuvres and get faster'. The 48 year skipper old from Abenraa in Denmark is faced with the challenge of forming a new crew of 17, who will strive to give their very best when racing against the other ten challenger syndicates and Cup Defender, Alinghi (SUI) in the regattas from 16-26 June.
BANK will build his team around a core crew consisting of his Danish 'gold boys' Thomas JACOBSEN and Henrik BLAKSKJÆR, whom he won the 2000 Olympic gold medal with in the Soling and also sailed with in 2003 for the Swedish America's Cup syndicate, Victory Challenge. Their compatriot Michael HESTBEK (DEN), a 49er ace, will also be part of the core team. With Australian Michael 'Mike' MOTTL and Conan HUNT from New Zealand, two more pros have already been contracted, too. HUNT had also sailed for the Swedish team in the 31st AC. The 32 year old Kiwi sail maker is a sought after sail trimmer from the Auckland's strong offshore scene. 37 year old MOTTL, from Sydney, has already got three America's Cup campaigns under his belt (he sailed for American syndicate One World in the previous Cup) which makes him the most experienced hand in the crew. He can take over a variety of jobs on board and is thus particularly valuable for all newcomers.
To learn fast and be first choice for one of the 17 coveted crew places on board is the motto for the 13 Germans in the sailing team, who make up more than half of the crew. Under enormous pressure, Sports Director Andreas JOHN, from Hamburg, who plans to be on board himself, and BANK, have looked at more than 160 applications to filter out a few, very promising candidates. 'Despite the short lead time, only a few sailors had to decline our invitation, and all those had good reasons. Many German sailors seem to have grasped that this was a rare chance', said JOHN.
Following their joint success at the ISAF Grade 1 Match Race Germany three weeks ago in Langenargen on Lake Constance, where BANK and his crew came second in a world class field, Markus WIESER from Munich, now resident in Palma de Mallorca, will be part of the crew in Valencia. The 41 year old is to act as tactician. Then there is Gunnar BAHR from Jochen SCHÜMANN's Soling crew who were beaten in a tight final at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games by BANK. Matti PASCHEN, from Hamburg, has already proven his talent both in match racing and offshore racing. The two Hamburg match-racers Jan EIKE-ANDRESEN and Henning SOHN were already part of the plan when the German America's Cup campaign went public last year. To be a grinder is the goal of 30 year old Munich aircraft technician, Stefan GROSSMANN and world class indoor rower, Eckhart RALPH from Mannheim. From Kiel is 27 year old Felix WEIDLING, Braunschweig sends Gerrit BOTTEMÖLLER, whilst Wolf DIETZ comes from Munich. Nicolai 'Nico' JESCHONNEK, from Hamburg, successfully crossed the North Atlantic in 2003 on board the UCA of Kiel based businessman Klaus MURMANN.
Because of the unusually short preparation time leading up to the first race, BANK has hired four additional pros to join the crew for the Valencia Acts: sail trimmer Frederik GREEN (SWE), and Claus OLESEN (SUI). Both had sailed for Victory Challenge in 2003. From the top America's Cup teams, there is American support for United Internet Team Germany from bowman Geordie SHAVER, formerly with BMW Oracle Racing (USA), and from Alinghi with grinder Dominik NEIDHARDT.
'We will test a lot of different things during the training sessions to find the best possible crew for the first race day,' explains BANK, 'and we will certainly see a couple of changes during the Acts.' The whole crew of United Internet Team Germany will be introduced to the public on Tuesday 14 June, two days prior to the start of Act 4 in Valencia.