Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Coach or cannon fodder?

The two Extreme 40 catamarans went out Tuesday morning so the sailing team could practice their match-racing techniques. The wind was quite light, but the guys were put through their paces on pre-race manoeuvres and start practice.

"We're heading out to do some pre-start training and some other drills as well," coach Glenn Ashby (AUS) told videographer Rick Deppe dockside.

The day was a rare chance for Ashby to get onto one of the race boats. "It's nice to get sailing again. It'll be a learning curve for me coming up against the big boys," he joked. "But I have a few good men with me, to help get me around.

"I'll be steering one of the boats…be a bit of cannon fodder for the other boys. It's nice to step off of the coach boat and have a steer."

Ashby says keeping the sailing team's match racing skills sharp is what these training sessions are all about.

"You need to practice the skills that you have and stay fresh. The best tennis players or golfers practice all the time. They never go into a tournament without brushing up on their skills. So for us, doing some racing and keeping everyone in a racing state of mind is important."

And although the Extreme 40 catamarans are less than half the size of the BOR 90, Ashby says it's amazing how much the boats behave similarly.

"A lot of the skills and tactics crossover onto the bigger boat. The same techniques apply on both boats, although the speeds are quite different. But what you can and can't do on the smaller multihulls is very similar on the big boat. There's never really been a multihull match race circuit to practice this stuff so we need to do it ourselves."

As for being cannon fodder, unsurprisingly, the multiple world champion Ashby acquitted himself just fine, and gave the core sailing team the type of competition they relish and need in the build-up to the America's Cup Match.