Sometimes in the fast-paced life of the AC72 Adam Beashel thinks fondly of his on-board role before catamarans changed everything.
He was strategist on the Emirates Team New Zealand yacht in the Valencia regattas in 2007 and the MedCup TP52 circuit in 2009 and 2010. He’s the one often seen looking for a puff of wind while hanging from a halyard high up the mast.
He remembers those times: “I was a lot more involved with strategy, tactics and wind. It was quite nice being able to sit up the top of the rig and get away from everyone, relax and take in the view.”
He jokes about his career path: “It used to be a progression from the front of the boat to the back (the afterguard). I’ve gone from the back of the boat to the front.”
Today life on board is quite different – but much more challenging and enjoyable. “I’m more involved in the mechanics of racing; getting dagger boards up and down, timing deploys and gybes and when to sheet-on and when to furl at bottom marks.” He’s right in the thick of it with no chance to enjoy the view.
“The role is a lot more physical, a lot more grinding is involved. It’s also very technical with all the control systems we have to manage.”
Split-second timing in manoeuvres has always been important in America’s Cup racing. With the AC72, it’s critical. “If the timing is out event a fraction of a second in a tack or a gybe it takes precious time and a lot of hard work to recover. Get the timing just right and it becomes much easier, so a couple of us have responsibility for making sure the timing’s right.”
On-board communication is another. “Wind noise and the 14m beam of the boat make communication difficult. It’s hard to relay stuff across the boat so that’s another part of the equation. Good communications is essential for good timing.”
Sailing team members have radios moulded into the back of their helmets. “Most of the crew are only listening. We’re still working on who needs to have a mike and those who can only listen.”
Is it much tougher in the gym to prepare for sailing on the 72? “Yes, these boats are a lot tougher on the whole crew and a lot more horsepower (manpower) is required to get things done.
“We’re not doing doing 20 or 30 tacks a beat as we did in the monohulls. Each time we tack or gybe on the 72 everyone except the helmsman is flat out. So David Slyfield works us pretty hard in the gym every morning and in the afternoon when we are ashore. Days on the water speak for themselves – up to 6 -7 hours of hard labour. We cherish our weekends when we get one.”
How about scary moments? “Not really. We eased our way into sailing the AC72 for the first 5 – 10 days or so, but once we had confidence in the hardware we started on the path of pushing the boat to its limits.
“The engineers and designers have done a fantastic job and we have been able to push it hard.
“Pulling off some of the manoeuvres in a breeze was another step again. Every now and then we’ll see the bow disappear under water but we’re confident that it’s coming back up.”