AMERICA’S CUP: Changes beyond recognition

Published on March 14th, 2013

The dawn of the AC72 cats has impacted almost all of the crew roles in an America’s Cup campaign – along with the game itself. To gain some expert insight, Sail Racing Magazine editor Justin Chisholm spoke to Oracle Team USA bowman Brad Webb…
Being a bowman…
“It’s a complete departure. Those who have followed the Cup over the years will be familiar with the old monohull style where there was a foredeck team and we were putting spinnakers up and down all day, doing jib changes and gybe-peels and all of that sort of fun stuff. Back then the bow team needed to be three, four or even five people, including the pitmen, to choreograph all the manoeuvres.

“Now that has all gone. On the AC72 we are picking a downwind sail to start the race with and that will be already hoisted at the start, we are more or less picking a jib for the day – or at least we will certainly be picking a jib for the race, come the Cup.

“The other difference is that, in the past it was an hour and a half or two hour race around a 12 mile course, whereas in the 34th America’s Cup it will be a 35 to 40 minute sprint up and down the San Francisco city front. There will really only be one drop at the bottom with the gennaker and one hoist at the top – maybe another pair of those if they send us round twice – and that will be it.

“So that old style bowman job has gone and been replaced with a high energy role with a lot of grinding and running from side to side. I think the defined roles of bowman pitman and grinder have all been blended a lot, so we all need to be skilled up on all the systems of the boat and ready to jump into any role anywhere around the racecourse. In particular, I think the biggest new aspect to the role is dealing with the boards.”
New bowman jobs…
“Well pretty much everyone is grinding, either to power the hydraulics or to bring the new sheet on. If it’s a gybe we may do a half furl of the gennaker to help get it around. Then there is the wing as well which has to be trimmed. So yes, everyone is grinding, right back to the tactician and the strategist on the back.

“My role currently is in cockpit three and because I have a background of working in hydraulics, myself and Simeon Tienpont we are responsible for getting the boards up and down. The foils are such a crucial part of these boats, especially now that they are foiling. I think the sailing world has become pretty aware that foiling is where we are going with the Cup in these boats.

“The speed difference when the boat is out of the water is dramatic, so it is about keeping the boat on the foils as much as possible and through the manoeuvres that requires us to operate the boards in the most efficient manner possible to keep the boat foiling in and out of the gybes. So, making sure we minimise drag and maximise the efficiency of the foils is one of our main roles.”

Full interview:

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