At the Helm
In March, SF State Magazine caught up with Paul Cayard (B.S., '82) in Spain, where he was preparing for the 34th America's Cup. The world sailing champion is CEO of Artemis Racing, the Swedish team that will compete in the Louis Vuitton Challenger Selection Series next July. The winner will challenge the defender, Oracle Team USA, in the America?s Cup finals in September 2013.
How do you feel about the America's Cup coming to your hometown?
Putting it in a bay like San Francisco is a great way for everybody to see it. And as we put the race in a small arena, we've increased the speed of the boats by three times, so the place is going to get real small, real fast. It will be a different kind of America's Cup, but I think it will be much more spectacular for the fans.
How did you get started sailing?
One of my classmates' parents sailed a little bit at Lake Merritt and introduced me to it. My father could see I liked it and built a boat in our garage when I was 8. I sailed that boat on Lake Merritt and Lake Merced. When I was 13, I started sailing on the bay. When I was 15, I was asked to join St. Francis Yacht Club's junior program. They had a pool of the best sailors in the Bay Area.
Are you competitive by nature?
On the [high school] basketball team, if there was a loose ball, I was the first guy diving to it on the floor. My coach nicknamed me "The Cruncher," and I fouled out of about a third of the games my senior year because I played basketball more like football.
Has your degree in business management helped you in your new role as CEO?
It gave me the tools I use to figure out how many boats we should build or what projects we can take on with the design resources we have. The public sees the sailing and the race. To build up a team like this -- after you hire people with the right skills -- you have to research and develop the boat and conceptually design it.
How has technology changed sailing since you started?
We were going eight knots in 1983 and now we're going 38 knots. Next year the boats will be ripping down the bay at 50 miles per hour, [travelling] from the Golden Gate Bridge to Alcatraz in about two-and-a-half minutes.
Tell us about your closest call at sea.
In the Round the World Race of 2006, we lost a piece of the undercarriage [which left] a two-foot square hole in the bottom of the boat. We slowed the boat to five knots and were able to put in place a patch that held for 50 hours as we made our way back to Portugal in a gale. That was the closest I came to sinking.
Do you have a favorite memory of sailing?
Racing with my kids from San Francisco to Hawaii in 2008 [and showing them] what the sea has to offer after having raced around the world twice.
How will you define success for your team in the America's Cup?
I expect us to be in the finals. As a first-time challenger, that would be a great achievement for this team. Success for me is about exceeding expectations.