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AC Guest Racer: Sex on the Water

Sailing World editor Dave Reed scores a ride on board Artemis for their series-winning match race against Team Energy, and after weeks of anticipation, it's over in a matter of minutes.

June 29, 2012
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Sailing World

Artemis Racing at America’s Cup World Series Newport

Sailing World’s Dave Reed keeps a low profile on Artemis Racing’s AC45. 2012 ACEA/Gilles Martin-Raget

After Artemis Racing handed France’s Energy Team its second match-race trouncing of the day in the opening matches of the America’s Cup World Series Newport, mathematically securing the circuit’s match-race title, Artemis skipper Terry Hutchinson exhaled deeply, releasing pent-up anxiety, and then quietly addressed his teammates, Sean Clarkson, Thierry Fouchier, Andy Feathers, and Julien Cressant.

“Not my finest day,” he confessed. “But great job every one.”

From my perspective as the guest racer (while doing my best to not slip off the narrow trampoline while crawling from side to side), I hadn’t noticed a single flaw in the match. But that’s because it’s impossible to make sense of the many subtle, but race-critical moments hidden in the chaos of each precisely orchestrated maneuver. Hutchinson has a reputation of being hard on himself, which is why he is the perfectionist he is.

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It could also explain why he was up at 3 a.m., unable to sleep on Wednesday night. Even if he was severely REM-deprived, it certainly didn’t show when he bore away the big cat and accelerated headlong into the entry box on port tack, bows targeted at the black hulls of Energy Team, before Hutchinson whipped the boat into the wind for the pre-start dial-up.

“Camber! Camber!” He kept calling as he feathered the boat into the wind with the French team parked off our starboard side.

“Board down!”

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“Board down!”

“Back the jib!

“No, Julien! Other way!”

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And then there was only a moment of silence, only waves slapping against the stern scoops as we drifted backward.

Peyron’s escape move was to circle around and then abruptly park to leeward. Shouting ensued between the two teams, a volley of “Hey, Hey, Hey!” which translates in any language.

The French, however, had set themselves up too close to leeward, and Hutchinson pushed his tiller hard over to show he had no swing room.

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“Crack!”

Mere inches from where I was sitting, I watched Artemis’ aft beam smack Energy’s topsides: a penalty to Peyron, who then bore away sharply as the countdown entered the final seconds.

“Five, four, three, two, . . .”

Energy Team sheeted on and jumped the gun. Instantly, someone on the Artemis crew knew it. “They’re over early!” (Every phrase is loud and succinct.)

As Energy came to a stop to shed both penalties, Artemis’ gennaker was deployed for a head start, high-speed sprint around the track. There was no chatter of tactics or strategy. It was all happening too fast. It took 30 seconds or so (it seemed) to get to the first reach mark. The following run took no more than 2 minutes, just about enough time to catch one meaty puff and hum toward the leeward-gate boats.

“One and in! Left gate,” Hutchinson declared after constantly ducking his head to get a better view of the leeward gate from beneath his wing.

Once around the mark it was up to the top of the course while playing a loose, high-speed game of cover-the-competitor—and avoiding a catastrophic capsize the likes of Emirates Team New Zealand suffered in one of the matches to follow.

In 10 minutes or so, the whole thing was over. We hummed across the line unchallenged. The crew furled the gennaker, and handshakes and backslaps followed. After Hutchinson congratulated his teammates on likely securing the overall match-race title, and he turned to me and said, “Nice job, Dave.”

Yeah. Like I had anything to do with it. Maybe I did, by simply not falling off the back of the boat or touching his tiller—which I’d been warned several times _not _to do.

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