“The big change in AC34 is the integration of the technology system," said Iain Murray, Regatta Director, America's Cup Race Management (ACRM). "That's where Mike's background as an engineer is invaluable.”
Martin’s near term priorities also include figuring out all the hardware, boats and communication equipment that his team will need for the rules testing that ACRM will be running late April/early May in Auckland in the AC45s (it’s expected that three or four additional AC45s will come on line this month).
The ISAF Racing Rules of Sailing AC34 edition published last week so it’s now the responsibility of ACRM - and specifically Martin - to hold those rules, maintain them and to recommend any desirable changes to competitors.
“With any set of new rules we are going to trial them and make sure they work - probably some modifications will have to be made,” Martin explained. “We have a radically different format than in the past with catamarans doing 35 knots, all on different configured race courses as well as shorter races, so the rules need to be different to address the characteristics of those boats.”
Martin explained that the testing will include setting up forced situations, for example, in a mark rounding where they’ll have a bunch of boats come into a rounding at once, to see how the new rules play out, then talk to the competitors and get their feedback. “I think it’s very different to the way rules are typically tested because most of the time you don’t have the opportunity for that format. We’re going to have the opportunity to have some of the top match racers in the world testing these rules and we have the ability to modify them.”
He says this new role is a little different than the experience he’s had on technical rules committees where he’d usually be concentrating on measurement and equipment rules but he’s embracing it. “I'm enjoying the opportunity to work with the racing rules. I think they needed updating especially for this new kind of format. I don’t have any history with the America’s Cup but I do have history with high performance boats.”
Martin, 46, grew up in Alexandria, VA, and has been racing since he was 11, on the Potomoc River and in Annapolis. He went to Old Dominion University (Norfolk, VA), graduated in 1989 as a mechanical engineer, raced on the team there and won multiple national championships.
“We had a successful team with myself, Charlie Ogletree and Terry Hutchinson, it was quite the powerhouse team at the time,” he said. Martin won the Laser North Americans in ’85, and the Collegiate Single-handed championships in ’89, rounding out with a Finn campaign during and after college, moving to California in 1990 to Newport Beach for the Finn Olympic trials and never moving back.
He started sailing 505s and in ’99 won the World Championships crewing for Howie Hamlin. “I bought a 505 with the intention to drive but as it was really easy to find good drivers but hard to find good crew I wound up just crewing and sailing with some terrific sailors.” After his win in ’99, Martin started driving and found Jeff Nelson whom he started campaigning with in 2005 and finally won the Worlds in 2009 in San Francisco.
His favorite boat to sail? “I would have to say the 505, it’s high performance, it’s very good in a broad range of conditions. Ironically that’s the goal of the AC45 - high performance in all conditions,” Martin laughs. He’s also done a lot of I-18 skiff sailing, and with Howie Hamlin won the Worlds twice. “Sailing 18s is a lot of fun and obviously very high performance, it’s one of the few boats that will still scare me after all the sailing I’ve done, all the places I’ve sailed and all the conditions I’ve sailed in. It’s definitely a thrill.”
He hasn’t had a chance to sail on the AC45 yet but he plans on it. “We umpires need to as I think it’s very important for us to understand how the boat handles and what they are and aren’t capable of for example, in determining how hard someone tried to keep clear - whether they really could or couldn’t…”
And if you were wondering, Mike is married - for 10 years - to Stephanie Martin, Communications Director for America's Cup Event Authority.
*America’s Cup Chief Umpires for the past two Cup events were Bill Edgerton, Great Britain (AC33) and Brad Dellenbaugh, USA (AC32).
Top pic - Mike Martin helming in the 505 Worlds on San Francisco Bay, 2009