Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sailor Profile - Brad Webb

Bowman Brad Webb (NZL) is one of the originals here, working with the team since it was founded by Larry Ellison as Oracle Racing following the 2000 America's Cup.

"I've been here for three campaigns now...a long time. I'm waiting for my gold watch," he jokes.

As with many Kiwis, he grew up with sailing, starting in the P-Class dinghy and eventually graduating to big boats.

"I went overseas and was lucky enough to catch on with TAG Heuer with Chris Dickson in 1995," he says. And he's never looked back, being involved in every America's Cup since.

The current BMW ORACLE Racing team unites Webb with Alan Smith, a fellow Kiwi who served as inspiration for a young Webb.

"Initially I watched the America's Cup in 1992, when I was still in school, and even back then I was pretty sure I wanted to be a bowman. The bowman for New Zealand (at the time) was Alan Smith, who is with our team this time as well. As I developed in my career, he would be at the same regattas I was and I just kept watching what he did. I didn't try to invent anything, I just tried to do what he did."

So why the bowman role?

"I like the activity of being a bowman," Webb explains. "You're always busy; there's always something going on. I like the pressure of the start line; I like the pressure of top marks and bottom marks, where if you don't get things right, exactly right, you can have a very bad day.

"I remember someone telling me very early on that there are only three or four positions on the boat where if you have a bad day, the entire boat has a bad day. When a helmsman, or tactician or navigator has a bad day, or when the bowman has a bad day, you really can tell."

How has the bowman's job changed on this boat, a 90-foot trimaran, compared to previous Cups?

"All of the gear is much bigger. We're dealing with furling sails which we've never really dealt with in the America's Cup before and at speeds that we've never sailed at before. Dynamically, it's a very different job."

And what is it going to feel like on the morning of February 8, ahead of race one?

"I'm trying to think about how I'm going to be on that first morning and having never gone to the America's Cup Match, I don't really know what to expect of myself," Webb confesses. "I think that's true for a few of the guys on the boat who haven't been faced with this kind of pressure.

"In the past, the America's Cup has been best-of-nine and this is best-of-three, so there aren't a lot of chances to get it right. There's going to be a lot of pressure that we put on ourselves and we know we have a lot of people behind us who are looking forward to this day so that's going to be the big thing, the pressure and trying to use that to prepare yourself...

"Everything that you've learned, everything that you've practiced, everything that you've thought about coming up to this moment is going to come to a head and you just have to go out and race."