During a tour of the Artemis base in Alameda, I had the chance to speak with Australia’s Olympic 49er gold medallist Nathan Outteridge, who will steer the Artemis AC72 when it finally hits the water later this month. The second Artemis boat has been dramatically delayed by the accident that wrote off the first boat and killed crewman Andrew Simpson, and by the change to a fully foiling configuration.
We were shown the new, blue Artemis AC72 and the massive wing sail which is only days away from being finished. The boat itself has had the winches fitted and requires a structural test before the final fittings can be added.
The team is still saying “last week of the month” for launch date but in the meantime they are practicing foiling in the AC45 and are simulating many of the other manoeuvres they will be required to perfect. They also have a very solid gym program at the base, and the whole team looks physically in racing trim. Mentally it might be a different story, but if they need inspiration in this regard they need only look to their helmsman.
Nathan expressed the frustration of the whole team that their competitors will be racing while they remain ashore, but in typical Outteridge fashion he was up-beat about the prospects. While most pundits say there is no way Artemis can be competitive given the very limited time they will have to become comfortable with the foiling boat (their first boat did not fully foil), Outteridge refuses to accept that it is a lost cause.
He explained that he learned to sail a foiling Moth by watching YouTube videos of other sailors, then going out and perfecting the techniques he observed. That worked – he won the 2010 Moth World Championship. He says he has been watching videos of the other teams foiling their AC72s and feels he has a good handle on the techniques required.
“We’ll have the least amount of time (of all the teams),” Outteridge conceded. “But I’m quite confident if (the boat) passes all the tests, we’ll be competitive.”
Asked how long it would take between putting the boat in the water and starting their first race, he said it would depend on how long it took to get confident enough to perform all the manoeuvres safely.
If they can get some days of light winds, he said, they would make quicker progress because they could try more manoeuvres. “We don’t want to risk anyone’s safety.”
If light winds are forecast for days that Artemis is scheduled to race either Emirates Team New Zealand or Luna Rossa in the Louis Vuitton Round Robin, they could use the race as a training sail, but Outteridge said that had its own downsides.
“We have to do post-race interviews and other stuff. We might be better off using the time to keep practicing,” he said.
A classic Outteridge comment during the media tour, summing up his whole attitude to sail racing, was, “It’s never over.” He said that in any sailing regatta there is a time when everything thinks things are settled but then someone does something that changes the whole situation.
The body language of the Artemis team reflects their frustration and resignation to the seemingly inevitable. But at least one member of the team – the bloke who will be holding the wheel – refuses to concede that they can’t make it all the way to the 34th Match.
- Roger McMillan in San Francisco