US magazine Sailing World editor Dave Reed has understandably good access to the NYYC American Magic America’s Cup Challenger syndicate and has been churning out great insight stories over the past several months.
In his latest, titled Kitted for Flight Reed is on site at the team base in Pensacola when Øyvind Vedvik – Helly Hansen’s category managing director for sailing boards – delivers a set of custom-made personal flotation devices for the sailors to try.
In this excerpt from the full story we get some insight into how differently the aftergaurd on the team’s AC75 have to kit themselves out compared to the grinders during Florida winter training sessions…
A PFD may seem a minor detail in the scale of such a complex and high-stakes sporting event, but the sailing gear is more important than one may think. I can tell because it’s a regular dinner topic. A few of the crew poke fun at their hyperactive CEO and skipper Terry Hutchinson, who has yet to sail a single day without a drysuit. He’s always cold, but can you blame him? Imagine driving a convertible car on a cool, moist morning, at 40 miles per hour, with the top down. And no heater blasting from the dashboard.
The same is true for the rest of the afterguard, including flight controller Andrew Campbell and mainsail trimmer Paul Goodison, both of whom are not embarrassed to pile on puffy down-fill layers beneath their dry suits until they look like Michelin Men. They say their helmsman Dean Barker—who thwarts Pensacola’s cold winter sailing sessions with many layers, bulky winter gloves, balaclava—looks like a villain-fighting superhero. The only thing he’s missing is a cape.
It’s understandable, of course, for the grinders to poke fun at the softness of the afterguard. Their internal combustion engines are firing on all cylinders and their needs are far different. For them, Helly has deployed rash guards and customized pieces from their neoprene dinghy sailing line, adding impact and closed-cell protection where needed (shins and knees, primarily) and keeping their upper bodies dry with a team favorite called the Foil Pro Jacket (and Foil Pro Smock), which may very well be the most technical sailing jacket ever built by Helly Hansen. In collaboration with the team, they now have an incredibly lightweight, form-fitting jacket with four-way stretch fabric with sonic-welded seams (no stitches, no leaks). The Foil Jacket is an apparel work of art that does its part in contributing to an overall target of 3.5 kilograms total for each crew’s sailing gear. Remember, it’s the America’s Cup, where every gram goes straight into making the boat faster.
After a few of the sailors try their PFDs, all with nods of approval, the cafeteria tables are cleared for the arrival of the lunch break crowd. Although, not everyone in the base on this day can afford to stop and gorge from the buffet. From the top of the organization to the bottom, there’s a monumental worklist to be checked off and time is most definitely of the essence. Barker is over in the top-secret simulator, either trying a new foil configuration or working on the team’s playbook in the simulator’s two-boat mode. With a symphony of vacuums, grinders and files, a small army of boatbuilders crawl over the team’s AC75, Defiant, finishing up a refit so the team can go sailing a few more times before the ship arrives to take them all away. A handful of shore team guys are installing systems into a new, lighter boom that just arrived from their building operation up north in Rhode Island. In a corner behind Defiant, several others are decommissioning the team’s 38-foot test boat for storage. And over in another shed, their second mast and mainsail are being prepped for measurement.
Somewhere on a vast virtual Smart Sheet boxes are ticked one by one, and Vedvick’s special delivery allows them to take one more off the list. That’s how America’s Cup partnerships work: He’s done his part and delivered the goods. Now it’s up to them to go out do something with it.
Main image © Will Ricketson/NYYC American Magic