America’s Cup: Sailing Team is a Multitasking Effort

Published on May 3rd, 2016

Andrew Campbell’s resume is impressive, from winning the Youth Worlds to College Sailor of the Year to the Olympic Games. Now on the sailing team for America’s Cup defender ORACLE TEAM USA, here he shares the set up of the team and where he fits in….

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Andrew Campbell

With the America’s Cup World Series New York event looming this weekend, all of our team at ORACLE TEAM USA is looking forward to the racing. Unfortunately, only five or six out of a sailing team of 14 get the opportunity at each event.

In addition to the racing, ORACLE TEAM USA is organized for two boat testing, but we will only field one team of six sailors in the 35th defense of the America’s Cup Match in June 2017. So all of us are aware of the fact that we’re in a healthy competition for a role on the race boat.

While we have a lean sailing team of 14 sailors, within that group we have two helmsmen, two wing trimmers, three tacticians, four jib/board trimmers and 11 grinders. How’s that for fuzzy math?

We all have multiple jobs so we can order and reorder the teams to get the most out of any given day of testing. Most of us can do multiple jobs on the boat. Most of us are also a backup for another counterpart on our team.

The division of labor in the modern America’s Cup format is both simpler and more complicated than in prior editions. Where past campaigns would have hundreds of people in each camp and specific roles for each person, the current format has encouraged smaller teams and more jobs allocated to fewer people.

For instance, sailmaking has been significantly reduced to only a few jibs per boat, thanks to the use of wings and the serious apparent wind increases. We have a team of about 65 people in Bermuda, and each sailor must assume multiple roles in the team in addition to their on-the-water role. We liaise with different departments on shore, but also have multiple responsibilities on the water. Gone are the days of 16-man crews, now it’s a multitasking effort.

My job as a tactician is primarily to help position my boat to win around the racecourse. In addition, on testing days, I collect the goals of our sailing team, our coaching staff, our design team and our shore crew from the morning briefings. We come up with a plan for the day’s effort to create drills and scenarios to reduce variables and produce the highest quality testing results that can then be analyzed for strategy, design, and construction decisions constantly going on in the background of our base here in Bermuda.

On the water I monitor multiple boats to make sure that we’re efficiently using our time. It doesn’t sound too bad until you consider that I’m also helping the mode choices for our boat, checking relatives against the other boat… and grinding our wingsheet, taking breaks while sprinting across the platform to the new helm to help steer through tacks and gybes.

Helping our skipper Jimmy Spithill and sailing team manager Tom Slingsby get the most out of a day of testing is a critical piece of the larger goals in hydraulic testing, board design, wing trim and thousands of other variables in preparation for the new America’s Cup Class.

And when it comes to race time, the competition for the role of tactician is busy with Tom coming off the helm of one test boat, with myself and Rome Kirby also playing the role on our trial horses.

When the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series events come up, it’s a hard pill to swallow that only five of our team can go racing because there are 14 of us who are ready to step into any role. We’re chomping at the bit.

But we all know what we’re here to do and that comes next summer. So, we’ll be testing, testing and refining until we’ve checked as many boxes as possible until then.

Information for America’s Cup World Series New York on May 7-8 can be found here.

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