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The Start of Something New

We catch up with Artemis Team helmsman Terry Hutchinson following the newly assembled team's shakedown at the Louis Vuitton Trophy Nice Côte d'Azur. Supplement to our January/February 2010 issue

December 22, 2009
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Artemis Team helmsman Terry Hutchinson

Artemis Team helmsman Terry Hutchinson Paul Todd

The Artemis Team competed in the recent Louis Vuitton Trophy Nice Cote d’Azur under the Swedish flag, but the team had a decidedly American feel, with Paul Cayard, Terry Hutchinson, Morgan Larson, and Kevin Hall in the afterguard. The team had little time to practice before the regatta and finished seventh of eight teams. Was this a disappointment for this talented team? We got Hutchinson, the team’s helmsman, on the phone to find out.

How did this team come together?
We’ve been competing [on the Quantum Racing program] against the Artemis team in the TP 52s. In some way, shape or form, I think a lot of the guys on Quantum Racing have sailed with some of the guys on the Artemis Team. The team manager, Jared Henderson, aka Beach, was organizing it and asked me if I had any interest in competing with them. It was a quick yes.

It was a bit of an AmericaOne reunion with yourself, Cayard, Larson, and Hall, albeit in different positions. [Ed.’s note: on AmericaOne it was Cayard (skipper & helm), Hutchinson (mainsheet), Larson (strategist/trimmer), and Hall (coach). With Artemis: Cayard (skipper & strategist), Hutchinson (helm), Larson (tactician), and Hall (navigator)]
And Sean Clarkson and Morgan Trubovich. There were six AmericaOne alumni on that boat.

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You’ve made no secret of your desire to helm a Cup boat. What did you think of your first opportunity?
I’d done a bit back in 2003 with Dennis and Stars & Stripes. I did about six months worth of B-boat helming, sharing the duties with Tony Rey. And during the Louis Vuitton I did a couple of starts. But it’s a boat; it’s not rocket science, not much beyond that.

But the ACC boats [Ed.’s note: the boats for the Louis Vuitton events are slightly out of ACC trim to avoid copyright issues] are a refined beast, and much different from a TP 52 or a Melges 24.
They are unique. The thing you realize when you get to sailing a boat that’s that big and that heavy and there’s so much momentum involved is it takes a fair amount of concentration to keep the boat in the groove. You become a lot more compartmentalized. On the 52, I can look around more. This boat requires a lot of attention to the driving.

Given how late the team came together for this event, what was your mindset heading into the regatta?
When you look at the teams that sailed, the top five teams basically all spent time training the boats in some capacity in the months prior to the event. For the Artemis team, we approached it in the manner that we’re just going to get our feet wet and see where we’re at. That means that you show up, get in the boats, go at it with what you have, and do the best job that you can, not overcomplicating things by getting bogged down in the fact that you haven’t sailed the boats that much.

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While seventh of eight isn’t anything to write home about, you were very close to having a much better record. What happened on the course?
It’s a difficult one. The round robin consisted of 10 races, and in nine of those 10 races we were bow-to-bow, or forcing the other boat to tack away with starboard advantage at the first cross. In eight of those races, we led around the first mark and only won five. It’s a game of inches. Things just didn’t quite go our way. We had a crucial race against Synergy in the second round robin that I didn’t do so well in the the boat-on-boat situations-at certain times, I had to win and I didn’t quite position the boat properly-and they were able to pin us to the layline. That was really the key race in the second round robin. I look at the event and I can see so much promise in our team. Paul summed it up perfectly, in that we’re investing in the future. This regatta was just about figuring out what we need to do to take this team to next level.

So this wasn’t just a one-shot deal? The goal is to move this team forward in the Cup arena?
That’s the plan.

Do you think this sort of Louis Vuitton Cup/Act format has a place in the America’s Cup of the future?
I think if we all get lucky, the Cup does sort itself out, that very quickly this format is adopted to whatever becomes of the next America’s Cup. I know Oracle, they’re a supporter of the Louis Vuitton series, and they’ve publicly said they’d like to see this type of racing going around the world leading into an America’s Cup. It makes sense, it’s an awesome format. If everyone was there racing with their own boats, it would just be great.

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Is that the answer, everyone bringing their own boats. The supplied boat format is cheaper and much simpler to organize from a team perspective?
It is and it isn’t. I think if you asked all the teams there, I think we’d all rather have our own boat there, branded with our team sponsors. That gives you a platform to sell something. This was a hard one for sponsors to support. Four of the teams went home with three days to go in the regatta. If you were able to be there with the signage, your sponsors on your boat, then you’re going to get value all the way through it.

I know you’re as hard a self-critic as there is in the sport. So I’m guessing you came away from the event with a comprehensive to-do list. Could you share some of what you put on that?
Well, hang on. [Sound of pages flipping] Things on my list-and this is a selfish list-beyond all the things we need to do boathandling wise-actually that list is pretty small because the team is solid, just a great group of people. I’d like to work on lead-push drills from 3 minutes out, bow-to-bow four minutes from the top mark if you’re in the center of the course and one boat’s on starboard, one boat’s on port, and you have four minutes to each layline. Those are difficult, as the starboard tacker, you have the starboard advantage, but you have to do a good job of positioning the boat. So there’s things there to learn. I’d like to continue to work on dial-ups in the pre-start, as the starboard tacker in particular, really doing a good job of positioning the boat, breaking away at the right time to achieve what you want to achieve. There’s certain times, if you’re going to dial somebody up, you want to sit there for a certain period time to get the start that you want. So continuing to evolve there.

Evolving where you’re bow-to-bow at the mark as starboard tacker and you have to tack around the mark without fouling the port tacker, but also defend the lead.

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The timing of when to do a soft slamdunk on somebody. Letting the port tacker dip you, getting to the right of you, but tacking at a point where you either pin them, or they can tack out of the pin [as you’re tacking to slam them] and you don’t risk fouling as a boat tacking to port. All these are based on situations we lost at the regatta, boat-on-boat situations, that I didn’t do a very good job of executing so I know I have to do a better job of. We have a plan set out right now for a couple of training sessions before the next one

Will those be in Cup boats?
We’re incredibly fortunate with the Artemis team in that they have access to a couple of RC 44s. So we have a training session scheduled in February.

And those work because they’re similar in body type to the ACC boats?
They’re nice because they’re long, narrow boats, but they probably accelerate much better than an AC boat. For the most part it’s re-igniting the instinct so that when you’re in those situations you know exactly where the boat is going to end up. I’d like to claim it was something else other than that. In particular, we had two situations that we didn’t do well. But it’s no more complicated than that. That’s the beauty of it, we had so many positive things go for us: we started well, we had great boathandling, we had certain times where there were tough calls and the guys did really good work making those tough calls. But had we finished the regatta in some ways as well as we did some of those things, I think it would’ve been a mis-representation of how much work we have to do to get better. This way, we set the benchmark and from here we go forward.

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