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Nothing short of a paradigm shift
Now in its seventh season, the TP52 racing at the Audi MedCup Circuit has grown to become the premiere keelboat fleet racing circuit. When the 2011 edition begins in less than two weeks, it will be the fourth time that Quantum Sails has led a sponsored team - Quantum Racing.
The Q came out strong in 2008, winning the circuit in their first year. After taking second overall the past two years with the same boat, this year they have made changes. With previous skipper Terry Hutchinson (USA) now occupied by the Artemis Racing America’s Cup challenge, Quantum Racing will be led by 2007 America’s Cup winning helm Ed Baird (USA). And Ed will have a new Botin Partners designed boat this season.
Curious about a sailmaking company controlling its own racing program, Scuttlebutt checks in with Ed Reynolds, President of the Quantum Sail Design Group:
What was believed to be the original goals and benefits of the program? And has this changed? Is this about selling more TP52 sails?
We started with three primary goals, which really haven’t changed all that much over the years. First, we chose the MedCup as a platform to test and validate our product and our technology.
Second, we saw it as an opportunity to market our sails and our technology. The process for successful sail development is pretty consistent among all boat types. What we do for Quantum Racing in terms of design, manufacturing and optimization is applied to every sail we build.
Third, we wanted to give our customers a bit of a "back stage pass” look at pro sailing. On the team, we heavily promote the idea of accessibility and dedicate resources to sharing our story.
The boat name, the boat branding, the video production... what has been the impact of these decisions?
The impact of these decisions has far exceeded my expectations. The bottom line is, we set out to prove to everyone in the marketplace that Quantum is a world-class company, with the best technological resources and product to match. My belief was that this couldn’t be done in a subtle way. When I first saw the branding presentation I thought, "Oooh boy! Everyone is going to know we are here!" But that was the point.
No one believed anyone but North Sails could be a supplier to teams at the grand prix level. At the time (and to this day) we felt confident about our ability to be a player at this level. To stake our claim in any other manner would have been cowardly. In the office, we had some very candid conversations about this, saying, “‘We are going in! Is everyone ready?’ And across the board everyone agreed, ‘We can do this.’”
The impact of this decision has been nothing short of a paradigm shift. Whatever someone thought of Quantum Sails in 2007 is dramatically different today.
What is the budget for the program this season? Is this expense being wholly sponsored by Quantum Sails or do you have partners?
A racing program is able to attend all of the Audi MedCup events and participate in the best big-boat fleet racing in the world for around 850,000 euro. To go to the MedCup with an expectation to win, it costs more like 1.7 to 2.0 million euro. We go every year with the intention to win. We have a few partners who have supported the program with goods and services and operating revenue, but the majority of the cost is through Quantum and our investment group.
Can you quantify how the Quantum Racing TP52 program has helped Quantum Sails?
The Quantum Racing program has helped in many ways. One of the most important things, I believe, is the pride felt not only by those most closely involved, but also by everyone throughout the organization. We are operating a world-class program with the best talent and extraordinary results. The Quantum team has finished every MedCup in first or second place, which has impacted our brand image immensely. How Quantum is perceived in the marketplace has improved many times over and this is a great source of satisfaction for our organization.
The tangible items that have come out of this effort include product improvement and the validation of our technology. Owning the program allows us to test our process and products on ourselves and not our customers, which is unique in the industry. We also own all of the technology used to create and build the sails, and can deploy that in any manner we wish. With an America’s Cup program, the syndicates own the technology, not the suppliers. Most people don't understand this and the reason it is important is because we can share anything we have with our customers and we do.
The MedCup had been used as a team and tech prep series for the America's Cup. When the ACUP went multihull, did you have an 'oh crap' moment that the MedCup would no longer have sufficient relevance for Quantum Sails' Quantum Racing program?
Not really. In fact I felt just the opposite. The AC as a multihull event is exciting and fantastic! But, the fact is, 75% of our current customers sail monohulls. Of those who race, almost all of them are fleet racing. So all the reasons we originally did Quantum Racing are still very valid.
Interestingly, the technology we use in developing our grand prix sails has positioned us extremely well for the broader multihull market. Multihulls are growing in popularity, in part due to the AC. Our designs for high-load multihulls are very successful because of our experience in the TP52 program. It’s a great example of how the Quantum Racing program impacts our business and ability to serve customers in all types of sailing.
I also feel our participation has been good for the MedCup, helping to affirm it's position as the most competitive monohull racing in the world. It has captured the interest of the sailing public. I believe it’s been a win-win situation for us and MedCup.
What is new about this MedCup season?
This is the first year for a new design. There will be six new builds sailing this year, which may be the most ever for one season. The class has implemented some changes to help make the boats more competitive under the IRC rule and to control costs; this should help retain the resale value of the boats. Case in point: before our boat was even launched, we received three solid requests from people who want to purchase it. This interest is understandable when you see the IRC results attained by owners who last year purchased boats from Quantum Racing and Team New Zealand. The downside in the past has been the expensive modifications that were required; now that will be less of an issue. My belief is that the changes, along with enhancing the resale value and cost containment, will make the racing more competitive.
Photos by Libby Tomlinson
May 4, 2011
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