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That was fairly close... lively times in the Farr 40 OD fleet racing in Sardinia a few years ago – and this was before the class made the switch to masthead chutes. Just getting away with it on the left is Vincenzo Onorato on Mascalzone Latino while causing all the grief is fellow Italian Carlo Alberini... the same Carlo Alberini who dominated the J/70 fleet at Key West this year counting five race wins

LES HAMSTERS – Jack Griffin

Loïck Peyron has remarked that the six-man crews of the 2017 America’s Cup Class catamarans consist of a helmsman, a wing trimmer and four hamsters.

As I wrote in the December 2015 issue of Seahorse, the grinders need to power the hydraulic system, pumping oil for all the control systems. Trimming the jib and raking the rudders will consume relatively little oil pressure. The hungriest systems will be for wing trim, camber and twist, and for moving the daggerboards. It will be interesting to see if they drive the wing winch mechan- ically, as on the AC72s, or with hydraulics. On the AC72s with eight grinders Oracle had six of them driving the wing winch on upwind legs, allowing wing trimmer Kyle Langford to slip and trim the traveller continuously – ‘beast mode’. With only four grinders on the 2017 boats the best solution may be to do everything with hydraulics. The rules allow three hydraulic accumulators – one for daggerboard rake and two for moving the boards up and down. Even with the accumulators, the grinders will have to be working continuously. Asked about what they are working on, Oracle’s sailing manager Tom Slingsby said, ‘We’re trying to get our systems more efficient. Getting these boats around the track manually is hard work. For testing, we’ve got a battery pack onboard and we can switch between manual and automatic.

‘When we switch into manual, the guys are grinding non-stop and we are still struggling just to get through a racetrack… an hour and a half for the guys sailing in manual, trying to get boards up and down, they’re completely spent.’

In their February training Oracle have been rotating grinders on and off the boat so they can spend more time on the water. When racing begins in 2017 teams will be allowed two substitutions between races on any day. Running the test boats in manual mode will be the key to deciding the best way to power all the systems. Given this focus on stamina and power it’s no surprise that


teams have been recruiting athletes from other stamina sports. Oracle have brought on Australian champion triathlete and Olympic open water swimmer Ky Hurst. SoftBank Team Japan chose oars- man Yuki Kasatani during their search for Japanese crew. Artemis Racing received an unsolicited application from Swedish Olympic kayaker Anders Gustafsson – and they found his physical prowess off the charts.

In 2017 Team New Zealand had Rob Waddell on the handles – Olympic gold medallist in sculling, world record holder on the ergometer and black belt judoka. This is not to say the sailors already in the teams don’t have a lot of stamina. Chris Brittle on Artemis is known for his strength and fitness, while Bleddyn Mon at BAR scores well on a rowing ergometer, as do the grinders on all the teams.

Having fiercely competitive athletes from outside sailing is nothing new to the America’s Cup, though. In 1964 most of the British crew on Sovereignwere rugby players. Olympic oarsman Brian Richardson was on Australia IIin 1983. Dennis Conner won his Olympic bronze in the Tempest with Conn Findlay who already had two golds and a bronze in rowing. Findlay was a grinder on Marinerin 1974, and on Courageousin 1977 and 1980.

By the way, the same principle applies to women – in the 1995 defender selection series Stephanie Maxwell-Pierson and Anna Seaton came to Mighty Marywith their Olympic bronze medals in rowing and were joined by Seaton’s Harvard rowing teammate Alison Townley.

Looking even further back, it’s clear that America’s Cup crews came with professional skills other than racing yachts and that their contributions had more to do with their physical skills than their tactical sense on the racecourse. One has only to look at Thomas Edison’s movies of Reliance starting against Shamrock III, with the crew of 58 Scandinavian fishermen hauling in the 300m mainsheet hand over hand, or James Burch’s photo of them all acting as moveable ballast, lying down on the windward side.


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