Hutchinson Gears Up for the Final Push

An exclusive interview with Terry Hutchinson, tactician for Emirates Team New Zealand

Hutch

He was never a fan of finishing second, even before he became involved in the America's Cup, where of course, "There is no second." So it should come as no surprise that Terry Hutchinson, the tactician for the Emirates Team New Zealand America's Cup syndicate, was less than ecstatic about Warpath's runner-up position in the final Breitling MedCup TP52 overall standings. The fact that the crews on both Warpath and MedCup champion Mutua Madrileña/Mean Machine were largely comprised of his ETNZ teammates did little to soften his disappointment. Nonetheless, Hutchinson said the six-regatta circuit was a great place to further develop the vital relationship between himself and ETNZ helmsman Dean Barker. When the TP52 season finished on Sept. 24, most of Hutchinson's ETNZ teammates quickly hurried home to Auckland. We caught the two-time College Sailor of the Year at home in Valencia, Spain, enjoying a few weeks with his family before he too heads south.What are the team's plans in Auckland?I get there on the sixth [of October] and we start the following Monday. We go from there until Christmas. It's about an 11-week session.And your family?They're going to stay in Valencia. My oldest is in second grade here and we have the other two in pre-K and kindergarten. With the amount of time we were scheduled to have free, it made no sense to pack them up and move them down there. There are four weekends that we have two days off and the rest of them are one-day weekends. What boats will you have there to sail on?NZL-84 went back, and we'll be launching 92 in the coming months.What are the team's goals for this session?There's couple of things we can do. We can continue on with the development of 84. We will get 92 tested structurally, racing, and get her into a position where she can be a good testing platform for 84. The learning curve should be a lot greater because we have two new platforms. That's a huge advantage. In the past we were testing new versus old and, even in the best of times, the results are somewhat skewed. Will we see ETNZ and some of the other two-boat campaigns-BMW Oracle, Luna Rossa, Desafio Español-set up their two boats for different wind ranges with the intention of possibly using one early in the event and the other later?You have to give [that idea] a serious look, knowing the early rounds could be breezier, and potentially in flat water if you get some offshore breezes. When you get into the late May and June part of the regatta, you might want to consider a change. I was surprised how much lighter it is than we thought. We had some great testing days once the Acts were over, but those were good testing days in late July. At that point, hopefully we're back in New Zealand. We did so much sailing in seven to 11 knots. I think when we go to New Zealand our hands will be a little bit tied there by the weather. So there are some good things we can do in the upper wind ranges. I know we'll focus on those a lot. You have to be really impressed with Alinghi's ability to go in a breeze. So we're going to take every opportunity to get better.The TP52 circuit was a lot of sailing, on top of a long Cup season. Why did you, as a team, sign on for that?It was strictly an opportunity to do some training. Ed Reynolds from Quantum came to us last year after we'd done a regatta with the Lexus/Quantum and said, "If we could put something together, would ETNZ be willing to come in and help out?" The challenge of mixing cultures, new people into the program-we were faced with that as much as anybody. So we welcomed the opportunity to go in and test ourselves in pressure situations. From that perspective it was just awesome. The series didn't end as well as we would've liked. We sailed really well up to [the Ibiza regatta], and probably the extra 30 days the Mean Machine guys had in their boat paid off and the fleet caught up to us. In all the close situations you learn so much about the individuals in our boat. Next year, when we are under the microscope, this experience will be really valuable.The skipper-tactician relationship is vital to a good America's Cup campaign. How tight do you feel with Dean?I think we're pretty good. I think all of us are good. Dean's a pretty quiet guy sailing the boat and he does really good work driving, so our relationship there is really strong. It's not necessarily the time you spend on the boat where you learn about the person, it's off the boat, hanging out in the hotel, going to dinner. That time was awesome. You won the 2006 America's Cup Class season championship and lead the Louis Vuitton Acts standings by two points over BMW Oracle. But since the final Act is worth triple points, you're virtually tied. How important is that top slot and the one-point advantage heading into the Louis Vuitton Cup?If you end up completely tied at the end of the [two round robins], the guy that won the Acts gets to choose his poison [which team to face in the semis]. It's definitely important. We put a lot of emphasis on this year. There was a movement to switch that [Act 13, next April] to match racing, but we opted to go along with some of the other teams to keep it fleet racing because you don't want to be in a position where you're showing Alinghi everything right before the regatta. I think we'll put a huge emphasis into showing up and putting in a good regatta, but I wouldn't expect us to be in the same form we'll be showing in May or June. We'll be prepared for it no question, but at the same time there'll be bigger fish to fry down the road.Looking at your resources, do you feel like you're on an even platform with Luna Rossa and BMW Oracle?No reason not to feel like that after this past summer. I feel we have everything we need right now. You could always use more, but I'm not sure if more actually gets you anything except confused. We've laid out a pretty solid program for the next 10 months. We did the same thing last year and we have to trust that what we did last year was right. We worked through some problems early on and, when we needed to come out on top, we did. This year there's no reason to feel any differently because everything is the same process. Grant [Dalton] has done a really good job of positioning us to take advantage of every dollar he goes out and raises.What's your opinion to the job Grant's done as a first-time America's Cup syndicate head?I never really knew him before this. I think what he's been able to do, regardless of the outcome, has been really spectacular. He's one of those guys that you'd always go to work for because, when push comes to shove, he's there backing you up. And he expects the same in return.By the end of Act 12, it was pretty clear there were three tiers of syndicates. Do you see the bottom- and mid-tier teams catching up as they launch their new boats? Or the top teams getting further ahead?It's tough to say. Some of the people around us have had problems with their new boats not holding together, so it'll be really interesting to see how that all shakes out and how much development they can do in the next month and a half in Valencia. I think most of them basically start back up with us in February. Getting the boat up to speed takes an incredible amount of time and work. We were for sure sailing 84 better at the end of this summer, 6 or 7 weeks after the last Act. We were better in the boat. When you take that and you keep applying it forward, those smaller teams are always playing catch-up. A team like Mascalzone Latino, who by all accounts has done a lot with 77 and getting good at sailing their boat, now they have to go through the same process with their new boat. It takes a truckload of time. There's the potential for the racing to be close, but the boats themselves make it a challenge. If you look at it entirely on sailing skill, the racing will be really close. But the boats require a lot more than that.What about Alinghi? Have you seen much of their new boat?They've been pretty quiet. They are going to Dubai. I can't imagine you would go and take those steps if you weren't worried or concerned about maintaining your advantage. To me SUI-75 was a really good boat. We had pretty good results again it, and Luna Rossa and the Oracle guys were also both very competitive against it. If I were them, I'd be thinking, "We've got to look to make another jump here."Do you think the team made a forward leap with SUI-91, which was held out of racing this summer?How would you know? I wouldn't know because I haven't been paying attention to them. We've got so much on our plate. You need to watch the competition, but you can't watch them too closely because if you do, you're going to miss things on your own team.Valencia's taken some knocks from the sailors as a place to live. What do you think of it now that you've had some time to live there?For us it was easy, but we've been moving for the past seven years. For people who are very entrenched and used to having the regatta in their backyard, it's got to be a harder thing to do. For so many friends I have on other teams, it's taken them a while to get used to the culture. But I was at soccer practice with my son and one of guys said, "Now that we're used to it, it's not all that bad." Without question it's an experience.