Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Nerds Who Won the America's Cup

nerd n. slang
  1. A person who gains pleasure from amassing large quantities of knowledge about subjects often too detailed or complicated for most other people to be bothered with.
  2. A person who is single-minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits but is felt to be socially inept.

Let's face it. We knew all along that the 33rd America's Cup was going to be a design competition. Even if Ernesto Bertarelli hadn't decided to drive his own boat and demonstrate the most spectacularly incompetent match racing skills in the history of the Cup by accumulating a penalty prior to the starting signal in each of the two races, he would still have lost. Larry Ellison's trimaran was the faster boat. Game over.

I said as much back in December 2007. The Deed of Gift match was going to be a battle between two egocentric billionaires that would be decided by who could hire the talent to design the faster boat. As I put it, "
The America's Cup should be all about the nerds in the design office. Rich old coot with the best nerds wins."

And nobody should be surprised that America would beat Switzerland in such a contest, right? We all know that America has the best nerds, don't we? America put a man on the moon. Americans invented Spandex, the 8-track tape, Bubble Wrap, the Segway, and the disposable diaper. Case closed.

So where did Larry Ellison go to find the nerds to design his space age monster trimaran? One of the leading American yacht design offices? The naval architecture and aerospace departments of some of America's world-class research universities such as MIT or CalTech?

Well, not exactly.

Here is a picture of Larry's nerds...

... or as they are more politely known in this May 2008 press release "the BMW Oracle Racing design team."

So who are these super-nerds who just won the America's Cup for Larry?

Well the guy on the right at the back is Russell Coutts, the CEO of BMW Oracle Racing. And the dude with grey hair third from the left in the front row is Mike Drummond, the Design Director.

Russell and Mike aren't really nerds. They are the bosses of the nerds. There's nothing wrong with that. Being a nerd boss is an honorable profession. I used to be one myself. But they are not the real nerds. (Oh, by the way, Russell and Mike both come from New Zealand.)

Those two guys on the left of the front row, the slightly chubby ones with the nerdy grins, they are the real super-nerds. They are Vincent Lauriot Prévost and Marc Van Peteghem, principals in the multihull design firm of Van Peteghem Lauriot Prévost (VPLP). The guy standing behind them with the tanned complexion and the very white teeth is Franck Cammas. Actually Franck is a bit of a jock as well as a nerd. He's currently making an attempt on one of those "fastest round the world" records in Groupama 3, but Larry hired him because he is one of the world's top multihull gurus. And the other super-nerd the one on the right of the front row is Michel Kermarec, who was in charge of the incredibly nerdy areas of "performance prediction and appendage design."

So there you have them. Vincent, Marc, Franck and Michel, the nerds who won the America's Cup.

Oh. I almost forgot to mention it. The nerds who won the America's Cup... they are all French.

Update: Ralph from Montreal asks in a comment, "What nerd(s) designed the hardwing?"

Great question Ralph. The wing project was headed by aeronautical specialist Joseph Ozanne. The entire aerodynamic project was based on numerical simulations without using a wind tunnel. Very nerdy, I am sure you agree.

Here is a picture of Joseph Ozanne...

He is French, of course.


yarg said...

While I said the cup should go to New Zealand because that's the home of most of the sailors, you suggest it should go to France because they supplied the nerds in a technical contest. Either way, we shouldn't get carried away with our nationalistic pride. It really comes down to which old coot billionaire can hire the best talent. Global capitalism at its best. Of that we can be proud. If only there could have been some third world children involved in the building of the boat, it would be perfect!

tillerman said...

You are putting words in my mouth yarg. I didn't suggest the Cup should go to France. I was just pointing out that Larry was smart enough to win the Cup by hiring the best nerds in the world to design his boat. And when it comes to designing fast multi-hulls the French are the best.

The truth is that it's a long time since the America's Cup was a "friendly competition between nations" if it ever was. In this iteration and the last few it has been a competition between multi-national syndicates with the funding, the design skills, and the sailing talent coming from multiple countries.

From the point of view of the highly talented individuals at the peak of the game such as Coutts, Spithill, Lauriot Prévost and Van Peteghem that's a good thing. They can sell their talents to the highest bidder no matter whether their home country is participating in the Cup or not.

I hope it's the wave of the future in all sports. I hate nationalistic jingoism and chauvinism. Bring on the post-national era.

JP said...

Ok Tillerman 'fess up, how long did you spend looking for just the right photo to go with that post?

(which is a good one btw)

tillerman said...

LOL. I assume you mean the first one JP?

Not long. I was actually looking for a funny picture of nerds to head the post. So I did a Google Images search on "nerds" and that image was on the second page.

O Docker said...

So, even the America's Cup was outsourced.

Could these be the guys who do the verification words, too?

Baydog said...

Is that Snookie?

JP said...

Reminds me of that Right Stuff quote "Our Germans are better than their Germans"

Carol Anne said...

Now, if you could just have come up with a picture where the girl said "I (heart) Nerds" in body paint instead of on a t-shirt.

Ralph Stocek said...

What nerd(s) designed the hardwing?

Tillerman said...

Great question Ralph. I have update the original post with the answer. Another French nerd, of course.

PeconicPuffin said...

See, if I use a photo like that nerd lover you have, I get in trouble with the Mrs.

I must find a way to blame others...I've seen Horse Joe do it (he stuck some guy named Edward).

Baydog said...

Tillerwoman knows that it is for the good of the blog

Joe said...

I actually think that the Tillerman took the proper course of action in posting that fine figure of a wahine. This is his best post ever!

Baydog said...

Nice wahine indeed, Joe, but Carol Anne had a good point. I seem to remember a Pittsburgh Steeler look-alike with a #43 painted on her body. She gets my vote

Carol Anne said...

And no, I'm sure this isn't Snookie. This woman is far more intelligent and sophisticated-looking.

Tillerman said...

Quite right Carol Anne. That's why I chose that lady's picture, because she looks intelligent.

Baydog said...

Tillerman, you have a knack for judgment of character. She must also be French, look at the manicure!

The O'Sheas said...

Oh, man. I love your page 3 girls.

Anonymous said...

A couple of corrections:
- VPLP did the original design (of the boat nobody thought it would get built), but most of the later modifications were done in-house;
- JO didn't design the wing, he was put in charge to coordinate the team that designed the wing.

Anonymous said...

Ah, bummer that an MIT Naval Architect didn't design it. I shall have to complain to the Alumni Association! ;)

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