Here’s the Argo people and where they stand with their AC34 campaign…
SA: You set yourselves the goal of trying to raise $6-10 million by March 31st this year, a date that coincides with the deadline for entry fees for the AC34. With days to spare, have you succeeded in reaching your fundraising goal?
Christian Giannini (Argo Challenge): Our goal has always been to enter the 34th America’s Cup as an official Challenger. Our fundraising aspirations have been challenging, but more important than raising the initial $6-10mm has been the delivery of the Argo Challenge Mission Statement to as many people as possible. Nearly 540 million people around the world are saddled with a disability of one kind or another and the Argo Challenge is representative of those individuals and families that overcome those hurdles in life that disabilities present.
SA: Are you going to make an official entry? Will ARGO Challenge be among the International Challengers or challenging Oracle Racing for the right to seize the America’s Cup?
CG: We have presented the ACEA and ACRM with a proposal, where upon the Argo Challenge would actively participate with the ACEA as a partner, not as a challenger. This will demonstrate to the public throughout the America ‘s Cup, the possibilities for people with disabilities as well as the technological advancements and community-related services available globally. As part of the proposal, we intend to employ upwards of 27 able and disabled professional sailors to compete in the Argo Challenge Series, to be held during the AC45 and AC72 series, on a 3-4 person multihull.
SA: According to your website, the ARGO project was launched during the winter Paralympics Games in Torino in 2006. What prompted the project’s creation and why did you feel inspired to mount a challenge for the next America’s Cup?
CG: Antonio Spinelli experienced firsthand the athlete’s determination in the Paralympics, through his work teaching Para skiers and sailors. He was further inspired by the achievements of Lars Grael as a disabled sailor competing amongst able bodied sailors in the Star Class. Technological advancements in sensory aids, prosthetics and medical aid now allow for disabled athletes to function and compete on par.
SA: Can you tell us the story behind the ARGO name and logo?
CG: Argo was the ship that Jason used to go to find the Golden Fleece – a very difficult challenge, with only heroes onboard!!! As for the mermaid… It was thought that mermaids could teach humans cures for diseases through their inner strength!
“…since the news of the enterprise reached every corner of the Earth, many a youth of the noblest families asked to take part in the voyage. Jason hauled the boat into the water, adorned it with all that could amaze, and chose only the most valiant from among the candidates.” Diodorus Siculus Historical Library, IV 41
SA: “An International crew of sailors and athletes with physical disabilities” will be the make-up of the ARGO Challenge team. How do you define a physical disability with regard to sailing and how will you plan to overcome the limitations of these disabilities?
CG: Disabilities vary from sensory, physical and health related. We are utilizing the technological advancements and the individual strength of each athlete to harness every ounce of power available.
SA: Do you plan to make use of BAAD (Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors) Commodore Ed Gallagher’s remote guidance system for the blind? (See Wall Street Journal article)
CG: We will use every technological tool available and will also highlight such advancements throughout our interactive exposition that will be made available to the public at all times.
SA: How do your foresee the disabled sailors integrating with the able-bodied sailors? Are there certain positions onboard an AC34, which you believe cannot be manned by a disabled sailor?
CG: We have a firm stance that no position will be filled by an athlete solely due to his or her disability; the best athlete for the given position will fill that position.
SA: With top match-racer and world-champion DN Ice-boater Karol Jablonski already onboard, you announced this month that Olympic Gold Medalist, Lars Grael will skipper the ARGO Challenge AC34 boat. What about the rest of the sailing team? Can you tell me who else is keen to play a role?
CG: Karol Jablonski (POL), Heiko Kroger (GER), Lars Grael (BRA), Freddy Loof (SWE), Mark LeBlanc, Rick Doerr, Brad Kendell, Hugh Freund (USA), etc. just to name a few We have resumes coming from all over the globe. Both able and disabled, world champions, Olympians, military veterans and more will be on board and participating on the Argo Challenge. We are looking for the best athletes, not only sailors, to play a role. As well, the management and engineering team will have a heavy make-up of disabled members as well.
SA: How can one get involved or help with the ARGO Challenge?
CG: As soon as the 501c3 filing is in place you can donate money at www.argochallenge.org. 10% of all money raised by the Argo Challenge will immediately be transferred into a trust and then subsequently driven back into the disabled communities of the identified AC venues throughout the world. As well, spread the word through your social media portals and submit your resume to the Argo Challenge