Recovery Drink: Carbon Lemonade and Red Bull
Recovery Drink: Carbon Lemonade and Red Bull
People have predicted that the grinding on an AC72 will be more constant than it was on the old ACC boats, where it came in quick bursts. Is this true?
It’s definitely a different style of grinding. We see that reflected in our physical training. Before we did a lot of weights, explosive stuff, and that’s why we were all so big. Now our training has turned more to high-intensity interval training like Crossfit-style stuff where we do a lot of finishes which are maybe 20 or 30 minutes long. So we have our heart rates at 80, 90 percent the whole time, and we’re doing things to get that heart rate up, either grinding or doing shuttle runs, and in the middle of that we throw in physical, explosive stuff.
On the old AC boats, even if you had a tacking duel, and you were grinding non-stop, that was it, you were on the handles and [didn’t have to move]. Here you totally mix it up because you’re grinding, you’re maxed out, then you have to sprint across the platform, while you’re doing 30 knots and trying not to get knocked off your feet. The whole running aspect between the grinding definitely changes the physical demands on the body. Just staying on your feet when you’ve done 20 minutes at 80 or 90 percent, your stability starts to waver.
We’ve heard a lot from the back of the boat on what it’s like to sail these AC72s. What’s it like up forward? How much do the front line sailors enjoy sailing the AC72?
It’s basically totally wrecked any other sailing that I do. When the Cup campaign finishes, it will be difficult to get back to other boats.
The difference with these boats, what we feel forward, is something you always talk about, and now that we’ve done it, now that we’ve pitch poled, it’s sort of…it’s always on your mind. When the conditions start to get tough, it’s something that you’re always sort of discussing between maneuvers. Not in a playful way, but the fact that you’re actually addressing it means it’s a thought that’s always in the back of your mind: where are you going to go, what are you going to hold on to. It’s always something that’s there, and that risk is something that has entered the game that was never there before.
Before, on a Cup boat, when I was mastman, the only time I ever thought of risk was when we were coming into a luffing scenario going downwind and I was around the mast area and I would just shuffle behind the jockey pole because the risk for me was that the jockey pole could snap and take me out, or a spinnaker pole could break.
Here you have it in the sense that when things go bad, they go really bad, and we saw that on October 16 with the 72. It’s something that hadn’t happened, it’s totally changed our program, but I don’t think it’s something that will stop our defense of the Cup.
After the capsize, it seems that all the teams have taken the opportunity to review their capsize safety and recovery protocols. And everyone’s taking it a lot more seriously. Emirates Team New Zealand went to an indoor diving pool to jump off the 10-meter board. How much has your protocol evolved?
It definitely was a big wakeup call. Not so much the pitchpole, because that’s something we had talked about. For example, when I was out there, because I was involved in the rescue, I just wished I had my Volvo grab bag. I think anytime we all thought of it happening, it was something that we—or I—thought would be local within the Bay. It was always going to be inside of the bridge.
But by coincidence or chance or fate, that one day there was a 5-knot plus ebb tide, and it was blowing 25. An hour after [the capsize], we’re outside [San Francisco Bay] in standing waves. Then darkness came so it became more of an offshore thing, you want to make sure everyone’s got strobes on, and everyone’s got an EPIRB. I would’ve felt a lot more comfortable if we had. In the end, you can’t mess around in San Francisco; it’s cold and conditions can change really quick. That’s what caught me out, “Hmm, I could’ve personally been better prepared for this by having a few Volvo gadgets on me.” But you don’t think about that when it’s 3 p.m. and you hear the boat has capsized. I jumped on the chase boat wearing shorts and T-shirt.
Our protocol has totally changed now. We still have a committee working on … I don’t want to ever say it’ll happen again, but we have totally changed how things happen when it does happen again. It’s a big rescue organization, a lot of people out on the water. I’m sure we could’ve done things differently that may have cut down the workload we find ourselves with now with regard to the repair job.
On that day there were a lot of factors that played against us and things just snowballed—tide and darkness and those kinds of things—and we found ourselves in a situation where at that point, it was just try to save the platform.
[Among the things being revisited is our tender fleet.] When we’re out there at 11 p.m. at night, and we’re trying to get the platform back to San Francisco, and we’re basically just holding station against an ebbing tide, you’re thinking, "I wish we had a more powerful chase boat." When you start a campaign, you’re thinking, "Do you always have to prepare for the worst?" Usually you don’t [need that preparation], but there’s that moment that you may need it, and that’s when it comes good. Things like fuel, we never even thought of needing that kind of fuel capacity. We had to rotate chase boats through so they could come back to San Francisco and fuel up.
You’re one of the few people to have sailed on the 90-foot USA-17 trimaran, on a Volvo 70 (with PUMA in 2008-’09 and one leg in 2012) and an AC72. What’s the tensest scenario: the 90-footer in 10 to 15 knots, the Volvo 70 in the Southern Ocean, or the AC72 in San Francisco Bay?
If I had to choose one right now, it would be the 72; it’s definitely the one that keeps you on your toes the most. It could be simply a comfort thing in having not sailed that boat enough, so we’re not up to speed. Definitely a 25-knot day in San Francisco, with chop, the fact that the boat eats up so much distance, if something goes wrong—if you get a bad furl—you do not have runway to sort it out really. That boat is definitely pushing the limit with design and the way we’re sailing it. The Volvo 70, Southern Ocean, even in 35 knots, there’s a risk, but the risk there is different, it’s losing someone overboard and not finding them and being far from help. [On the Volvo 70] you broach, you wipeout, you stuff it down into a wave…I remember the first time that happened. It was just leaving Cape Town, like three days out, I felt so bad getting knocked off my pedestal, I thought, “I’m such a rookie.” Then I stand up, and I’m the first one on my feet. The guys who had done four 'round the worlds were already laughing it off. There’s still a bit of a buffer. Things don’t break. You can enjoy it, you can push, you can broach and come back and keep going. Here there’s no keep going; if you go over the edge, it’s game over.
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