Thursday, March 29, 2012

Like A Virgin...

As the saying goes, there’s a first time for everything.

HOWEVER it blows me away to be in the British Virgin Islands with the likes of Dee Smith and Eric Arndt, two well known American sailors who have raced all over the world, to find out that neither of them have EVER been here before.

If Smith’s wife Jocelyn has her way, it wont be the last, “I was talking to a bunch of the guys and we’re like, ‘why have we not done this before’?!!”, she said.

A very relaxed-looking Smith concurs, “It’s beautiful here…”

He’s working with a new Farr 400 program - Blade - chartered by Michael and Marlene Schlens (Los Angeles). They’re just off the St Thomas Rolex Regatta where they placed fourth. Smith’s working with Schlen and his mostly local Los Angeles, CA., amateur crew, helping get them up to speed on the 400.

“We were pretty happy with that result and the racing was fantastic,” Smith said. “We had a nice match race with the other 400 - Magnitude (chartered by Doug Baker also from Los Angeles) - they could have won easily except they made a mistake on the last finish line.”

The BVI is proving an ideal environment for Smith and Co., to work Blade through its paces. Nonetheless, I had to ask the question, "Why do you think sailors keep coming back here?”

Simultaneous crack up around the table.

“Well duh! Just look around! What do you think - gee - there’s wind, the water is warm, it’s clear, you don’t have to wear anything…it’s like … beautiful!” Smith laughed.

Racing got underway for the BVI Sailing Festival on Wednesday, with a 26-mile race from the Bitter End Yacht Club, around the island of Virgin Gorda - a perfect combo of downwind and upwind racing, with some challenging tactics involved (reef, rocks…). The Blade team took 3rd overall on Wednesday and look good for the BVI Spring regatta 3-day festival starting Friday.

While it's hard to imagine anyone working up a competitive sweat racing in Paradise, Smith countered,

“It’s always competitive when the competitive people go sailing. Doug Baker and his guys are all very competitive boys - they’re a bit above where we are so they beat us pretty hard. The 52s that sail these (Caribbean) races charge pretty hard - they’re race boats, they don’t know how to stop them. Even some of the charter cruising boats are being sailed by some pretty good people. It’s just the performance. Our boat is really performance oriented and it goes really well in these conditions - it gets up and planes.”

Smith, along with Arndt, has been working for the past eighteen months with Premier Composite Technology (Dubai) building these boats. PCT build a lot of things - their real business is architectural composites - but they’re passionate about boats so they got Smith involved in putting the 400 together to try to develop the class. 10 boats have been built and a bunch more sold. A one-design class came together in Key West earlier this year, with five boats on the start. Smith is expecting at least four on the start at Charleston Race Week. His goal?

“We’re hoping we can get a really nice class going through the States and end this year with Big Boat Series in San Francisco.”

The nice thing about the BVI is the variety that the regatta offers up for teams, “You have wind, islands everywhere, you get to see things, the turtles, flying fish, the beaches - it’s lovely,” Smith says, “To me, sailing to a buoy is interesting as a race but it’s not interesting as a far as sailing goes. Here you get to go somewhere, you get to go around something.”

And it’s more than just about sucking back cocktails. Navigationally, it’s different, Smith said.

“You have to watch out for rocks and you have to be conservative because you don’t know the places. You don’t know how well the charts are marked. I navigate with my phone and follow the boat around and it’s fine. Our boats don't have the full computer set-up aboard so we’re relying on hand held GPS but it’s actually easier to use the phone.”

On the differences between the Farr 40 and the 400, mainly, there’s the weight - almost two tonnes. The 400 is only 38-1/2 feet long and the reason it is because it’s purposely built to the shipping rule - it fits in a flat rack to ship easily.

“We can send it from Dubai anywhere in the world for less than E12,000, which is incredible. I heard one client from Europe went to Sydney and it cost him E70,000 round trip, where it would have cost us about E20,000. The keel had to come off, the mast has to be in two parts, it’s a very high quality Southern Spas rig with EC 6 carbon rigging, and then we made a performance boat out of it,” Smith said.

According to Smith, the 400 weighs 3800 kilos - 2200 kilos in the keel - and it’s deep so there’s a lot of stability and there’s a lot of sail area. It’s got a retractable prod instead of a spinnaker pole and it gets up and planes in 13 knots, so performance-wise it’s completely different to the Farr 40.

“Upwind it’s a little faster than a Farr 40 but downwind it’s a lot faster,” Smith said. “But, I think the thrill is that it’s just more fun to sail. You kick it and it responds. It’s also kind of narrow so it goes through the seaway really well.”

Smith says the 400 also doesn’t seem to need the same intense hiking and weight control.

“We found that crew weight wise it’s almost a deterrent to be heavy - that’s like one of the first boats we’ve ever sailed on that is that way. If that’s the case why would we have a weight limit or crew limit? We’re probably taking those out of the rule. We think the boat will probably settle in around 720 kilos because that’s enough to sail the boat and be light for downwind sailing. The boat really does pop out quick, and if you have too much weight it doesn’t pop out as quick. I think we’re at 3800-3900 kilos and I think the 40 is at about 5800 kilos, so that’s about a 40% weight difference with more sail area, more stability.”

Magnitude and Blade have been sailing right in each other’s face. The boats were built so close that the performance is identical, says Smith. “There’s no difference in it so who sails better gets ahead and the other guy has to do something smart to catch up. The 1-D aspect of it and the way the company builds the boats is so accurate - the hulls come out within three kilos of each other, the keels come out within a couple of kilos of each other. So there’s no excuse. Hopefully the package is there for a really nice one design moving forward and people see the advantages of the boat.”

(Approx price tag of the Farr 400? $395k base, with everything and approx.. $500K landed for race sailing - not bad for a carbon boat).

* Check out the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival:

Wednesday's results:

Pic 1: Dee Smith in Paradise
Pic 2: Blade racing past Necker Island, BVI (photo credit: Cynthia Ross/rossphotographic)
Pic 2: Farr 400 Blade at Bitter End Yacht Club
Pic 3: Farr 400 Magnitude at BEYC

Thursday, March 22, 2012

No Wingin' It With An AC72 Wing

Artemis Racing skipper and helmsman called in today from Valencia, Spain to chat on America’s Cup Race Management’s weekly media call. He’s had his hands full this past week, managing Artemis Racing’s inaugural sail with an AC72 wing - a first for any of the AC34 teams - on the team’s training boat, an ORMA 60-foot trimaran. The 40 (131 feet) meter high wing is the result of more than 35,000 man hours, it’s predominantly carbon fiber, measures 260 square meters and weighs just over a tonne. So far, the team’s had about eight hours sailing the wing.

After listening to Terry for half an hour, one may like to suggest that perhaps this will all be too much for the non-sailing fan, too sophisticated perhaps? It's definitely insanely expensive. But, if nothing else, as promised, it’ll be impressive...

What’s it like having a wing that size?
TH: We’ve had an AC72 wing on a trimaran and it’s unbelievably impressive from start from finish. From watching the shore team execute getting the wing in the boat to getting the boat off the mooring to going out sailing. The whole thing is on a magnitude of something I don’t think anybody really thought all the way through when the thing was being written. It’s going to be exciting times ahead of us. All the teams are in for an eye opening experience. It’s been awesome to be out sailing with an element of the AC72 and to be the first ones doing it.

Does it really feel that intimidating?
TH: Yes it does, without question. We sea trialed our trimaran about ten days ago in about 20 knots of breeze and had the thing in the high 30s boat speed wise with just soft sails. We went out on the first day with the wing in relatively calm conditions and it gives you - for the lack of better words - it gives you the shits. But when you look at the thing, it’s like, “Oh man!” But that’s the challenge of it, and I think, therein lays the opportunity for Artemis. For sure we have a lot of challenges ahead of us and that’s one we all have to face.

You’ve launched the wing earlier than you can launch the boat - is that indication that Artemis feels the wing is where the advantage will lay?
TH: There are certain limitations within the rules, correct we have to adhere to. We’re just getting as much out of it as we possibly can. We have to overcome that we are a new team and operationally it’s a big challenge to get 100 people operating and functioning and doing all the things that you need to do to be an efficient team when the boat goes out on the water.

What the wing presented to us was not only the opportunity to do something full-scale but it was an opportunity to start working on the process of developing the team. Those two points alone will be worth a lot down the road when we get it to the 72. It also shows us where we’re exposed in areas - on the shore team, on the sailing team - certain aspects of the team.

Then, when you go out sailing with the thing, I can’t tell you with words how impressive it is. We’re slowly gaining confidence with the amount of load that we put the thing under. In 12-13 knots of breeze going twice that in boat speed with just the wing - it’s hard to add another 12 or 15 knots of windspeed to that and put yourself on SF Bay and imagine how it’s all going to go. But that’s an equal part of the process and when we took the decision to do this, this is where we felt it was going to pay off.

Where the advantages are, I’m not sure we know enough yet. Obviously understanding the wing and getting it to be as efficient but simplistic - you can probably make something very complicated but getting it through the race course could be another thing. Obviously the dagger board is going to be a big key to the performance of the boat because ultimately in the high speed bearaways, the dagger board will keep the bow up and out of the water. But looking at it from the design side, the wing was the obvious place to start for us.

The racecourse prescribed for the 72s? Having now been in the 45, what are your fears, what are you anticipating once you hit that start line?
TH: That’s a good question. It’ll be interesting to see how the teams gear their boat. When you look at the first reach across from somewhere underneath the Golden Gate, towards the Presidio and Crissy Field, that’s the first area of worry because depending on the angle that they set you, the boat’s very easily going to go 40 knots. When you watch how we race the 45s - you have a quick deploy and maybe 45 seconds to a boundary, having a boat that can handle that type of deploys that we do in the AC45s, there’s the next question mark that we continue to debate. Will we be able to deploy on this boat much in the same manner that we do on the 45?

While that’s happening, the boat is screaming along between 35 and 40 knots of boatspeed, there’s going to be plenty to digest. I’d say that the next challenge for the teams are the boats that jibe and speed build well out of each manouevre. Down the run there’s a lot of gain and loss in that.

Conversely, the boat that can get around the bottom mark efficiently with the boat handling element and settle into an upwind mode - because we have the restrictions of the boundaries - understanding the long tack out of the bottom and maximizing the amount of runway that you can give the boat and also trying to do the beat with less tacks. When you consider that the boat will go 20 knots upwind and in the tacks it’ll probably drop down to 6 or 7 knots, there’s a pretty big loss in performance so the team that figures out those problems will probably be the team that is successful.

Sounds like succeeding will be more about how teams operate on the course and not so much managing your competition like in mono hull racing?
TH: Yeah, that’s a pretty fair assessment. It’s interesting when look at some of the C-Class racing and stuff that those guys have done, it’s a different type of match race and the boat speed element is a much bigger part of it but how do you derive your boat speed? Through your boat handling, through the boat’s acceleration out of tacks and jibes - those are ways that you can be faster than your competition. Your competition, if you did a ten mile leg, might be four or five minutes quicker but they can never achieve that boat speed on this course, so I think the challenge that all the teams face - I know certainly we face - how do we maximize all the great talent of Juan and our design team but also keep it in a perspective that is reasonable because you run into a boundary every 90 seconds. I think it’ll be an experience that none of us have ever seen - just looking at the sheer size and the power that the wing on the trimaran has created.

Are you excited about this?
TH: Yes, I am - between being extremely nervous and really really excited because it’s the opportunity of a lifetime, it’s something I’ve personally have always wanted to do and wanted to be successful at. I want to keep playing until we win and this is one of those opportunities. Be it in version 5 mono hull or 72 multi hull, that goal hasn’t changed so I’m incredibly excited about it. But, I’m also incredibly respectful of the fact that what we’re doing it on and what’s in front of us as a team is huge. You have to curtail the nervous anxiety by making sure we’re training in the 45 and taking all the necessary steps that we can to get better as a team.

What are the team’s plans between now and the upcoming ACWS event in Naples?
TH: Get as many days in as we can and for as long as we can! The one thing that you gain quick appreciation for is, for every hour that we sail with the wing, there’s two or three that happen ashore. It’s early days so we’re being as methodical as we can be with the process that we’re using to get to understand the structural side of it and to understand the data collection side of it and really to be safe with it. It’s something not to take lightly. Unlike where you would structural test with the version 5 boat and probably that afternoon you’d be in some simulation doing racing whereas this thing is very much one day at a time.

What are the plans for July 1 putting the whole package together?
TH: Our focus is that we need to get as close as we can get to a July 1 deadline for our boat. The trimaran has been a great tool in that it allows us to test the systems of the boat so that they are reliable when we go into the 72. What you quickly realize is that the wing is a boat as much as the 72 is a boat. It requires a lot of manpower and if something fails, it’s catastrophic. If you have pieces of the puzzle that you don’t have to worry about when they’re on the 72 it’s one less thing that you have to structurally test when you go to the 72 sailing for the first time.

You can’t really underestimate the safety side of it when you watch/observe the wing going into the boat, the boat going off the mooring and going sailing. It has massive potential so just from a safety perspective if for no other reason that’s all we learned from it, it’s been a huge gain.

You’re sounding wary of the 72 - how do you think the lesser challengers with a whole lot less experience than yourselves, will fare?
TH: I don’t buy into that because if Team Energy shows up with the guy who just broke the Jules Verne Trophy - around the world - I’m going to take that as being pretty solid on a multi hull. The one thing I think regardless is that the 11 guys on the boat are a small piece of the puzzle. We have 100 people on our team and 100 people are flat out so each piece of the puzzle is equally as important and that’s the impressive thing about the challenge of the 34th America’s Cup. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, and the two teams in the 33rd match would have had a snippet of that.

What will be the picture for spectators? Will they really be able to see/value the difference between a 72 and a 45?
TH: It’s hard to say that it wont be an order of ten times more impressive than what the 45s are. I can’t imagine that the TV coverage coming off the boats - from what we have seen - will probably blow people away. Talking about the number of competitors etc., I look back on the 32nd America’s Cup and that was a great event for sailors because it was close racing and the guy who understood racing could really follow that. What’s in front of us when we get to the Cup in 2013 I think the guy who understands sailing will be able to follow it and go, “Jesus, look at that! Unbelievable!” And, the guy who doesn’t understand sailing will say the same thing for different reasons. That alone will make the match and this Cup more impressive to the novice and being able to show the telemetry - 45 knots - that’s going to be impressive.

Where will you launch your 72?
TH: Spain - from a logistical perspective that’s where the designer is, the builder is, that’s where we’ve been operating out of for the last few months. It makes sense to do it here in a somewhat focused and controlled environment. We’ve had some good honest debate as to whether we should throw ourselves straight into the deep end but based on what we’ve learned these past few weeks I’d say it’d be a risky proposition to try to do it on SF Bay straight away.

Will you do all your (permitted) 30 days sail training with the 72 in Valencia?
TH: I don’t think we’ll do 30, but it’s a little premature to commit, as so much is dependent upon the success of the structure of the 72. I think if we have a good success rate there we’ll try to get everything into SF Bay sooner than later. My hope is that whatever it is, late or early in 2012, when we put the boat in the water in SF Bay, we need to be ready to go sailing the boat around the race course.

What part of the World Series experience will be most valuable to the 72?
TH: Number 1 for us has been to upscale our sailors. We did that because we felt that the ability to take in information and make the right decision while going along at 25-30 knots, is a pretty key factor to this racing. The best thing that’s happened to us is that we’ve taken a lot of knocks on the chin in the 45 - bad boat handling or not performing to the level we expect of ourselves. We’ve shown to ourselves what we need to do to get better. Then when we get onto the 72, we can execute those things a lot better. Our competition is really good and rock solid through these events yet you saw Russell get off the Oracle boat and a really good multi hull sailor get on board - one of the best in the world - he struggled to get a good finish at the last regatta. It highlighted to us that each person on the boat is critical to the ultimate success of the boat so from a team perspective, the team will be as good as the weakest person. It’s a much different approach to what you’re used to in a mono hull. That’s probably the most exciting thing about it - between the 45 and the trimaran it provides a much different perspective to what you need to do.

Seems like trimming the 45 was seat-of-the-pants in terms of how you set up the wing, the camber, the twist etc. How much more scientific do you expect it to be trimming the 72?
TH: I think what we’re inevitably after is setting something up that has the simplicity of the 45 wing with all the power and info of the design team behind it so that it meets the function in the simplistic manner of the 45 but it needs to come from a different parameter of complexity - it needs to perform differently.

You were saying 2-3 hours of maintenance for each hour on water. The Oracle guys were saying more like 50-100 hours per 1 hour of sailing. Do you think that number will go up or down as you guys get more familiar with this boat?
TH: It needs to come down but in the early days, it is what it is. Part of that is applying a bit of common sense and walking before you run because we’re experiencing something we haven’t experienced before. It feels prudent to take it slower. As we get more confident there’ll be a balance but with the time that we have and because it is so limited we have to be very careful to make sure that every ‘i’ is dotted because you can’t have any gear failures on the water.

Relative to a two-element wing on a 45, with the three-element wing you can get more power. Can you also depower it more effectively?
TH: Yeah - when you depower you control the elements - to a certain degree you can add stability to the boat by going the wrong way. These are all things that we have to learn going forward.

* Specific dimensions on page 30 of the AC72 class rule:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Oracle's Tactician Happy To Be On Home Turf for AC34

John Kostecki is the sole American on the American America’s Cup sailing team, in an event that is being held in America for the first time since 1995. Fortunately, the renown tactician’s career successes more than make up for the absence of fellow countrymen on the Oracle Racing team.

I recently caught up with JK in a cafĂ© near his home in Marin County. He arrived on bike, one of the creature comforts he’s been enjoying since spending more time at his Bay Area home. JK grew up sailing his parents Lido 14 - the same boat, by coincidence, that his boss Larry Ellison grew up sailing on. When he was 8 years old he joined the Richmond Yacht Club and its junior program. It was a great program for JK, and the club/junior sailing became a big part of his life. Later his dad graduated to a Cal 20 and the young JK raced on that.

Like most America’s Cup sailors, JK’s humble beginnings proved to be the foundation essential for his future success in the sport. He says, “I wouldn’t be where I am today without dinghy sailing. Every time I go back to it I really enjoy it. It’s probably the best way to become a better sailor and a fast way to learn as they’re so sensitive.”

Fast forward more than a few years…JK’s focused on the next 15 months and his job as tactician for Oracle Racing.

What does it mean to you personally to have the Cup in SF?
JK: It’s great - it’s even a little surreal. It hasn’t happened yet but it’s great for me, being from here. Every once in a while I have to pinch myself, “Heck, is this really happening, you know?”

What’s changed in the role of tactician?
JK: With the AC45, there’s only 5 guys on the boat and it’s obviously quite demanding - we’d rather have 6 or 7 crew to do all the jobs. There isn’t a dedicated tactician per se - the helmsman is really the tactician and the rest of the crew contributes to the tactics - that’s how it’s mainly different to more traditional Cup boats.

What about equipment that you use to do your job?
JK: It all depends on what kind of racing you’re talking about - say Bay Racing - there really hasn’t been a whole lot of change - there’s a lot more access to weather information, tidal information - you can now download it to your phone - not huge changes.

But, you’re going to see a lot of exciting changes for this next Cup with equipment and electronics because of the way the boats have changed and the races have changed with the shorter courses. The last Cup with the trimaran and the catamaran were a stepping stone - there’s going to be big changes - stuff that’s being developed in-house. (Ed’s note: JK was clearly excited about some of this “stuff” that he couldn’t talk more about…)

How do you become a good tactician?
JK: Good question - sailing singlehanded boats on my own starting out - you really have to become your own. Growing up we weren’t a financially wealthy family so it was always hard for me to get even decent equipment - it was always below average so the equipment held me back so I had to make up for it in other ways. LOL! That’s probably the start of it all - how I learned to become a smarter sailor I guess.

What do you prefer - helming or being tactician?
JK: I enjoy both. The thing about being tactician that I like is that it’s a smaller area you can really focus on. Being the helmsman, a lot of the time you’re not only the helmsman but as the skipper you have ultimate responsibility for everybody on the boat. It’s a more demanding job.

How interesting is the tactical game in the AC45 for you?
JK: With multi hull sailing it’s just a lot different - there are a few really key moments especially with the way we have these new courses set up. You really have to focus at critical times to get it right otherwise you can lose a race. It’s still fun and challenging - just a different game.

You’ll see tacking duels at times, like we had a tacking duel with Team NZ in San Diego - it’s not a conventional type of tacking duel but we probably did 5 or 6 tacks on that short course. That’s a lot of work and it’s slow. In a match race you can do it, like in that particular race, Team NZ and ourselves wanted to stick close together and that ended up happen, especially as we all get more comfortable with the boats.

There’re a lot of young guys in the AC now - you must be seeing some great talent?
JK: I think it’s great. For sure there needed to be a change to get more young people involved in the sport, particularly in the America’s Cup. It was turning into an older guy’s sport. The change to the boats makes it quite obvious that young, stronger people need to get more involved. It’s going to bring the average age down a fair amount and it shows on all the teams.

Everybody has younger guys this time around - people coming out of the Olympics. We have three guys who are doing Olympic campaigns now and a few other guys who have just come out of the Olympics. It’s a great learning opportunity on both sides and it really pushes you too. It’s great to have that extra push. Just doing the A-Class stuff with Nathan (Outteridge) and a bunch of the younger guys in January in Australia - it makes you work harder trying to achieve another level.

Can you recall a time when you’ve been especially challenged as a tactician?
JK: Yeah - you always make errors! I’m a relatively conservative tactician. I always try to rely on other aspects - boat speed, crew work. I’d have to say some of the offshore sailing that I’ve done has been challenging. We had some races in the 01-02 Volvo when I was skipper on Illbruck where I would have to say at times we made some big mistakes. It really gets tricky because it’s a big team and stuff got spread out over the internet - we all had high expectations and so a few of those moments stand out. It was hard to swallow those mistakes sometimes. But that’s the Volvo - there’re some incredible highs and incredible lows - I remember both!

Are you following the current Volvo?
JK: Oh yeah. But, for whatever reason it seems that the Volvo is not as popular as it used to be. People really aren’t following it as much - generally seems like people have lost interest. I’m a little disappointed. The only thing I can really think of is the new course - less southern ocean and less traditional route. Could also be the worldwide economy. Seems like there’s less involvement and it’s still expensive.

Do you like ocean racing?
JK: I do - I’ve enjoyed that part of my career. I don’t see myself doing a whole lot more but I really enjoyed it. It’s just different. Just like multi hulls are different. I really enjoy learning new things - it’s how this game is now - I’m constantly learning, especially with the last Cup and the trimaran. In that sense I enjoy the offshore sailing. I didn’t think I would but ended up liking it. Every once in a while I think, ‘Man, I wish I was out there in the middle of a race,’ and other times I think, ‘God, I wouldn’t want to be out there in that race’

Do you like your job?
JK: Yeah! I really do.

What about the people you work with in this game, like Larry?

JK: Absolutely - like I said before, it’s great to meet different people and learn from others - I really enjoy that part of my work.

What’s been the pinnacle of your career - pick one!
JK: For sure the Olympic sailing is a lot of fun. That really developed my sailing level. I think it really got me into professional so I’d have to say Olympic sailing. It really develops more of a routine on how you go about sailboat races.

What does your day-to-day routine look like?
JK: It’s always in the gym in the morning whether it’s a race day or not. Either a big day in the gym or a race day training routine in the gym which gets you physically ready. Then we’re into planning meetings or debrief meetings on racing or training. That’s normally a big chunk of the mornings then normally sailing or racing in the afternoons. We have Phillipe Presti who used to work with Jimmy at Luna Rossa - we have him working with us on tactics, strategy and starting - now he’s a full gambit coach - he’s like a Rod Davis for us.

Do you do any other kind of sailing?
JK: I’m actually pretty busy - it’s always a balance with family - my kids are 4 and 1 ½. It’s challenging. In this day and age I’m trying to stay with multi hulls as well because the mono hulls are a lot different to the multi hull. I don’t want to be going back and forth and try to relearn habits - you relearn everything that you’ve forgotten then go off and sail another boat. It’s nice to stay with multi hulls at this stage of the game. I’m a little wary of doing too much mono hull sailing. You can go out and do a race or two or a regatta or two, but you can’t really do a lot of sailing just because the timing and everything is just so different.

Plus, the AC45 are really cool boats. I’m going to have to say there aren’t too many better boats than an AC45 out there to sail right now. They’re really nice boats, well designed.

What’s your favorite part of a campaign?
JK: Pretty simple for me - my favorite part is the racing. Racing’s fun and I really enjoy it. I also enjoy the training side. It can still be tedious - when you’re trying to develop speed you still have to go out and test equipment etc. - that part of it really hasn’t changed too much. As long as you’re involved and understand what’s being tested then it’s still pretty fun. You’re learning how to make the boat go faster.

If you weren’t sailing what else would you be doing?
JK: LOL! Riding (his bikes). I don’t know - I enjoy the financial markets - always keep a close eye on that. It’s similar to my role in sailing because it’s quite tactical there’s a lot of strategy involved. I enjoy that and would probably be involved in some aspect of that. Right now it’s very busy, it’s only going to get busier. It’s only just around the corner.

When are you going to throw your 4-year old on a boat?
JK: She’s been on a boat - not here but my wife is from a sailing family - Anne Marie - Dirk De Ridder is her brother. They’re a big sailing family from Holland so our daughter every summer goes back they go back to sail with the grand parents. Eventually we hope to move back to Marin and get a boat and have more of a normal family sailing atmosphere. LOL!

* John Kostecki is the only person in sailing to hold a “trifecta” of the sport’s most elite events: an Olympic medal (Silver in the Soling class, Seoul 1988), a Volvo Ocean Race win (skipper and helmsman of German yacht Illbruck in 2001/2002), and victory in the 33rd America’s Cup (tactician BMW Oracle Racing).

PHOTO CREDIT: Guilain Grenier/ORACLE Racing

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Outteridge Looking Good for Gold

Aussie skiff sailor and new helmsman in the America’s Cup, Nathan Outteridge is spending a lot of time on the water and in airports as he juggles his new role with Team Korea and the push for a medal in the 2012 Olympics with 49er crew Iain Jensen. Read on for part two of an interview with Outteridge:

Your bio says you live in Wangi Wangi - where the heck is Wangi Wangi?
OUTTERIDGE: (laughs…) It’s pronounced ‘Wonggee Wonggee’- it’s a little bay on Lake McQuarrie which is about a 1:45 minute drive north of Sydney. It’s near Newcastle - a big inland lake that’s actually a lot bigger than Sydney Harbor but with hardly any traffic on it and lots of dinghy and skiff sailing. Chris Nicholson - the driver on Camper in the current Volvo and also an Olympic 49er sailor lives in the same area. It’s a bit of a skiff breeding ground. I grew up there and once I got older I’d make the drive to Sydney every weekend where the competition and coaches are.

Who do you consider your competition out there?
OUTTERIDGE: Good question - there’s so many out there in sailing and it’s such a diverse sport. I used to really look up to Chris Nicholson when I was a younger kid because he was so close to what I was wanting to do - he was unreal on the 18-footers and three times World champion in the 49er - he was the guy I was always trying to chase - I was almost a generation ahead of myself. I thought if I could get to be as good as him I’d do pretty well in the world of sailing.

In terms of people who I race against - there’s obviously the Spanish guys Iker Martinez and Xabier Fernandez. They’ve been the benchmark for me over the past few years in 49er racing - when they came back at the recent test event it was very impressive to see how well they did with very little training on the boat. Tom Slingsby is one of my best mates and an unreal sailor and he’s really only sailed Lasers for the past 15 years but he’s been ratcheting up recently - whenever I get to race with him whether it’s in the Moth or the A, it’s always a good race - it’s fun competition between the two of us and I think you’ll see him go a long way in the Cup now with Oracle.

You’re working hard on your Olympic campaign?
OUTTERIDGE: Yes, I’m back home in Australia at the moment. We’ve been training the last couple of months in the 49er and are in the process of getting our equipment selected and sent over to England because the first major event will be Weymouth in mid June. In between the AC45 events, I’ll be doing the lead up events in the 49er as well.

Have you spending a lot of time in the 49er?
OUTTERIDGE: Yeah, I’ve been doing a fair amount but we train in blocks, we don’t train consistently months on end. We had a rest after the Olympic test event back in August and in November we did some training to the lead up to the Worlds in Perth in December. I took January off from 49ers and did the A-Class Nationals and a little bit of other yacht sailing. We did a small amount of 49er training in Feb and only just getting back into it now but once the boats get sent away next week I’ll be shifting gears again into the A-Class to remember how to sail a cat before I fly to Naples. Going sailing in a lot of boats which I’ve been doing over the past three-four years, and even with the Games coming up this year, I don’t really want to change that too much because I think that is what gives me an edge when it comes to racing the 49er. You get so much experience managing different types of boats that the 49er becomes more simple and easy when you get back to it.

What do you think your chances are for London?
OUTTERIDGE: We’re looking pretty good - we’ve been pretty solid in Weymouth over the last four events we’ve done and we’ve won all four events. We’re hoping we can carry that form through this year. We finished last year well winning the Worlds and we’ve only ever placed once outside the top three. The results speak for themselves and they build a lot of confidence for us but at the same time sailing is such a sport where nothing is certain and there’re so many variables. We’re just trying to make sure that every other little avenue that could go wrong wont go wrong. We’ve got a really good coach in Emmett Lazich who is overseeing our whole program and making sure I don’t compromise my 49er campaign with the Cup work.

* Weymouth is Outteridge’s second Olympics in the 49er - the first was Beijing where he led the event for about four days but missed out when they capsized in the medal race just before the line, dropping to fifth overall.

How have you developed as a sailor since then - you must really want that medal?
OUTTERIDGE: Yes, definitely. I think with your first Olympics you can get caught up in the moment - now I’ve been through that and I know how different the racing is. With the 49er we typically race in fleets - like 80 boats in all the events we do. At the Olympics with only about 20 boats the racing changes - you lose half of the good boats as you only get one per country. You have some boats who have never been in Gold Fleet suddenly there racing around you, so you need to be prepared for a different style of racing.

The test event this year in Weymouth was quite interesting. We only had 20 boats racing but the risk levels and everything all change a bit. We’ve accounted for what the changes are going to be and hopefully when we begin racing we’ll be ready for whatever the Olympics has to throw at us this time whereas last time we started our Olympics with a DQ in the first race and it was a very up and down event. We’re more experienced and prepared for what may come now.

The conditions will be very different from Beijing…?
OUTTERIDGE: Oh yeah - in China we sailed in hardly any wind - I was weighing 63 kilos to help the boat’s performance. I’m now a good 15 kilos heavier so that’s a big change in itself. I think the Games in Weymouth will be more like a normal sailing event than China. We’ll get a range of conditions and everyone has to prepare for that.

Who do you consider your mentor?
OUTTERIDGE: My parents (Tony and Jasmine) - they paid for everything I was doing as a kid - my dad was quite involved - he did what he could to get me where I am today. Since I’ve been in the 49er class I’ve had Emmett Lazich coaching me - he’s a great guy to work with and I’ve learned so much from him.

What’s been your biggest achievement in sailing?
OUTTERIDGE: What I’m most proud of is winning three youth Worlds back to back. It was a very difficult thing to do and you’re at such a young age being on an international stage. Winning three 49er Worlds is a big highlight as well. It’s also a very exciting thing to be offered the position to drive an America’s Cup boat at the age of 26. Even if it goes nowhere I feel like that’s an achievement in itself.

What’s your favorite boat to sail?
OUTTERIDGE: The Moth - it’s an amazing boat, it doesn’t matter what boat you’re sailing the Moth will probably always win.

Your favorite place to sail?
OUTTERIDGE: I’d have to say - I’ve sailed all around the world but every time I come home, wake up and look out the window it always seems to be the nicest place, even in winter, so much warmer than most places. I’m always surprised that there’re not more people sailing here.

*Outteridge’s hometown is Wangi Wangi, New South Wales, Australia. He started sailing at age 3 and began racing at age 5 on a Sabot. He had his first win at the Sabot Nationals, Yeppon, in 2000. He holds three World 49er titles, three ISAF World Youth titles, and a World Moth title.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Nathan Outteridge has his dance card packed for 2012, with an Olympic campaign to see through (and hopefully pick up a gold in the 49er), as well as jumping on board an AC45 for the first time as the new helmsman for Team Korea. The 26-year old Aussie skiff sailor is realistically confident about his new “job”, although scaling up from the 49er to the AC72 may take some work…

The following is the first of a two-part interview about joining Team Korea and Outteridge's current Olympic campaign.

Was the America’s Cup something that you were looking to do?
OUTTERIDGE: I wanted to move into the Cup and the fact that it’s moved into fast, exciting boats interested me a lot more than it probably did when it was in the older boats. The timing with the way that the circuit is with the Olympic stuff isn’t ideal but the opportunity presented itself at the right moment.

What do you think of the opportunity?
OUTTERIDGE: I’m really excited - we had our really first big Skype meeting last night with the whole crew. It was insightful to find out where they’re out, how their progression has been and what their plans are for Naples and the events past that. It’s very different to what I’ve been doing. I’ve done a bit of A-class sailing now but I’ll be sailing with more people, furling gennakers, using different types of sailing procedures etc.

Have you sailed the AC45 yet?
OUTTERIDGE: Never been on the boat. I get to Naples on April 1 and might get 4-5 days in the boat if all goes well. I’m very excited about it as it’s finally about to happen - the boats look amazing. I’ve been spending every spare minute I have at home watching the footage to work out what to do as I think it’s going to be a very steep learning curve for me.

What’s your training schedule with Team Korea look like?
OUTTERIDGE: The plan is to finish out this season in the AC45. It depends on how things pan out and how things are going with the build of the 72 but once the Games are over, the intention is to fly straight into full-time on TK. The team will be a bit behind the main 3 or 4 teams but they sounded very confident last night that the 72’s going to happen. They’re trying to shift focus a bit to get that prepared so when it comes to the Louis Vuitton they’ll be ready to go.

Do you think Team Korea is going to have enough time on the water to be competitive?
OUTTERIDGE: I wouldn’t be joining the team if I didn’t think that the team had a good foundation already and we didn’t have the potential to get results. I think the results that came in Plymouth and San Diego, were good results. Hopefully I can slot into the role that Chris has been doing quite nicely. I think the key for myself is to try to learn the key points to racing the boat very quickly. The guys should be able to cover the full boat handling maneuvers - just got to make sure I’m up to speed with time on distance when it comes to pulling the trigger at the start because that looks pretty key. General positioning, laylines, things like that - are going to be critical in the tight boundary races. The other thing is getting my head around the new rules - calling for water on the boundaries, the gate at the top mark etc. I think the concept of the racing and the way it works is right up my alley - it’s what I like, I like things that happen fast and making critical decisions. But I’m sure making those decisions on the boat is going to be different from the helicopter view!

I’m sure you’ll see some errors on my part in the first few races (LOL) but the error rate will come down and results will get better. It was interesting watching Darren Bundock and Tom Slingsby as tactician in San Diego - they were very up and down but when they got it right they were all over it, and every now and then there would be those key errors I was talking about which are going to cost you badly. Hopefully I can learn as much from the other teams as possible and hopefully they’ll feel a little sympathetic toward me and give me a few tips before we start racing - I highly doubt that though!

Do you have any problem stepping into Chris Draper’s shoes?
OUTTERIDGE: I haven’t really thought about it really. I know him from 49er sailing and know he’s done quite a bit of Extreme 40 sailing as well. He has that leg up on me in that sense but we’ve pretty much got the same crew as TK had for the past few events so hopefully they can do all the hard stuff and I’ll just hang at the back keeping it upright and going fast and avoid any issues! With the race format, it seems like you really need to think ahead to avoid a bad situation. Hopefully from my 49er and Moth experience I can use those skills to help predict what will happen on the AC45 - trying to plan that in a 45 cat is going to be a little different to what I’m used to though.

Being involved in all aspects of an A-Cup team including design is new for you - thoughts?
OUTTERIDGE: We’ve been trying to get quite technical about our approach to the 49er and one of the things I like most about the Moth is how design oriented it is. You’re always tweaking, trying to get the foils set up right, trying to get the most out of the boat. That’s one of the things I like most about sailing. You can find all these avenues to make the boat go faster without having to actually do anything physically. I don’t have a whole lot of design experience but that’s one of the things that interests me most about the Cup but I have a pretty good feel for a boat and can tell what works and what doesn’t so can give good feedback to the design team on how things may need to change. It’s going to depend a lot on how much time, money and resources we’ll have to throw at things.

Re the athletic nature of the 45 - will you’ll have to scale up to helm the 45?
OUTTERIDGE: From watching the footage it seems like the helmsman is in the best seat - looks like the four guys up the front have so much on that they couldn’t be fit enough to do their job. I’m pretty excited to be sitting at the back to be honest and let all them to do the hard work!

From all reports, helming the 72 will be a massive step up…?
Yeah - it seems a little scary to me. The 45s looked a little scary last year - I was trying to picture a 72 capsizing - if you get it wrong it looks like you’ll be in all sorts of trouble so hopefully the design team does a good job of making the boat nice and easy to sail otherwise you could have a bit on at times.

What about working with a crew? How’s that going to go for you?
OUTTERIDGE: I’ve done quite a bit of sailing on Farr 40s over the last four or five years in either a strategy role or tactician so I’ve been trying to develop those skills of managing a team - understanding what people’s jobs are and making sure I give them enough time to do it. As much as it’s a race of tactics and strategy, it’s a lot about managing crew capabilities and not putting them under too much pressure and having good clear communication. From what I’ve seen of the AC45s, it seems that’s where the problems occur, when communications break down and I know I need to be aware of that.

The Cup is fast becoming a Made-for-TV event - does that bother you?
OUTTERIDGE: I don’t think it changes the way we race the event. Sailing should become more media friendly - we’ve tried to adopt that more in the Moth and 49er but this is taking it to a whole new level. Every little thing you do will be picked up by TV both on and off the boat. I think it’s great and what sailing should be about. It’s an exciting time to be involved in the sport. I think Oracle is doing a great job of pushing it in that direction. Half the attraction for me is getting involved in something so exciting. Hopefully the constraints of trying to make it media friendly don’t destroy the best parts of our sport.

*Outteridge’s hometown is Wangi Wangi, New South Wales, Australia. He started sailing at age 3 and began racing at age 5 on a Sabot. He had his first win at the Sabot Nationals, Yeppon, in 2000. He holds three World 49er titles, three ISAF World Youth titles, and a World Moth title.

Stay tuned for Part Two - Outteridge on the Olympics