We ship equipment around all the time: there are four containers constantly on the road with our boats and kit for the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series events. It takes the guys two or three days to unpack and get operational, with up to 48 hours to pack it up again and get it back into the containers.
The scale of our recent move to Bermuda was completely different, taking months of preparation and work. The first shipment went out in July and was mostly the equipment required to build our base there; it included 16 containers and four purpose-built Portakabins. The second shipment, in November, was the big one and it involved the most preparation.
And while that was happening, various strands of our programme were converging: Land Rover BAR took a 14 point overall lead in the penultimate America’s Cup World Series event, in Toulon, and then won the final event — and the entire series — in Fukuoka, Japan.
Simultaneously, the end of our time in the UK with the T3 and T4 development boats was rushing towards us and there was inevitable pressure to conclude tests and trials of equipment before the launch of the race boat (R1).
This is planned for early in the new year in Bermuda, and the boat is in the final stages of construction in Portsmouth. So we had to pack up most of the vital equipment we need to operate, while also sailing, testing and building a boat.
We are keeping the majority of our design team and back office support in Portsmouth, with people rotating in and out of Bermuda. We will have our BT Virtual Chase Boat up and running on the island, so the design team can watch all the training and testing with multi-camera video and full data analysis facilities in our Dell EMC Mission Control in the UK.
But we still need a significant number of people and equipment in Bermuda — we have to support two boats sailing for more than six months. The containerised workshops on our shop floor had to be dismantled and packed up with all the tools and equipment that we will require. The glass had to be removed from the gym wall, and part of the sail loft safety rail went with it to provide access to get equipment out and packed.
There were boat cradles to be built to hold the boats while they were in transit, and all the high-access platforms that we use to work on the boats in the shed had to be taken down and stowed. And, of course, the boats themselves had to be decommissioned and prepared for the trip. This was probably the most important consignment that we will ever have to transport — so no one wanted to rush it.
In total we sent 40 items, one of them the crane to launch and recover the boats. There were five RIBs, with 26 containers of equipment and a whole pontoon. There was also our third test boat, T3. This, along with R1, is the most precious cargo and so it travelled inside the ship, along with the crane, some of the RIBs and the wing and foils.
There was one final shipment in December. The workshop containers for hydraulics, electronics, general boatbuilding and the machine shop stayed until last because they were required to finish building R1. Once that was done, they too travelled with R1 to Bermuda. It was vital that all of this passed without incident, as we needed to keep the Land Rover BAR testing and development programme on track in these last few months before the America’s Cup starts.
We shouldn’t forget that while all this was going on, team members were preparing to move their lives and families to Bermuda for six or more months — everything needed to be packed, stored or rented. Children had to be readied to leave their schools and friends behind. They had to make tough choices about which of their favourite toys to pack!
But it will be an adventure for them, and all of us. We are now in our new Bermuda home and the final stretch of our journey, our quest to bring the America’s Cup home, has begun.