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It’s a small world!!

by David Schmidt & Richard Gladwell on 6 Jan 2014
Wild Oats XI - Rolex Sydney Hobart Race 2013 Brett Costello/News Ltd ©
The sailing word is a really small place, especially at the upper echelons of the game, where sailors often wear a dinghy vest one day and an ocean-racing smock the next, while saving their snorkels for when the driving gets really sloppy. Top guys are always in high demand, so it’s not particularly unusual to hear of a pro sailor going from a Cup campaign to a full-bore ocean-racing program only a couple of months later. If that sounds like the life, things get even more interesting on the personal level, especially as the gentlemanly rivalries that exist in one campaign often drift over to other sailing endeavours.

One interesting story that has emerged from this past year’s Rolex Sydney to Hobart Race is the tale of Cup sailors/participants enjoying a private race within a race, as Iain Murray 'Big Fella' (Regatta Director for AC34) and Ian 'Fresh' Burns (Head of Performance for Oracle Team USA), sailing aboard the line-honours-winning maxi 'Wild Oats XI', 'bested' Tom Slingsby (Oracle Team USA’s strategist) and Stan Honey (who served as Director of technology for the 34th America’s Cup), who were sailing aboard 'Perpetual Loyal' (ex 'Speedboat'/'Rambler 100').

'Boats like Perpetual Loyal have come with a big reputation: essentially a new boat with considerable modifications to bring her right up to speed,' said Murray, who has been aboard 'Wild Oats XI' for most of its trips south. 'I think everyone in the crew was on their game this year. In the nine races this boat has done this was by far the best.'

The sailing world shrinks considerably further when one considers that 'Wild Oats XI' is owned by Bob and Sandy Oatley, the father and son drivers behind 'Team Australia', the Challenger of Record for the 34th America’s Cup. Moreover, Murray has been named CEO of this endeavour. Ironically, Slingsby, who sailed aboard 'Perpetual Loyal', has already announced his plans to return to Oracle Team USA again for the 35th America’s Cup. It will be interesting to see if the Aussie rivalries from this year’s Hobart develop further as the next Cup cycle picks up momentum, and if this 'race within a race' foreshadows any of AC35’s drama.

Speaking of Cup personalities who are sailing to great heights in other classes, Bendigo boy Glen Ashby, who served as Emirates Team New Zealand’s (ETNZ) wing trimmer in the last Cup, just took top honours once again the Australian A Class Championships. Ashby, it will be remembered, is a long time championship-level multihull sailor and has already re-signed with ETNZ for the next Cup. This win marks Ashby’s tenth class championship in Australia, however things will likely get more competitive for Ashby at next month’s Worlds, which are being held in Takapuna Auckland, and which are expected to see Nathan Outteridge, Andrew Landenberger, Brad Collett, and Scott Anderson joining the hunt.

They will come up against 49er Silver medallists Blair Tuke and Peter Burling, plus a number of sailors from Emirates Team NZ. As you’d rightfully expect the Sail-World team will be on the water there.

Catch the report from the 18ft Skiff League on the upcoming JJ Giltinan Trophy regatta starting in March - which has pulled a fleet of 30 skiffs from six countries. It should be a great series, and Frank Quealey describes how the class has been pulled back from the death a couple of times - but is now going from strength to strength around the world.

We have a few other stories in this edition which while not current, are interesting in a wider context.

We feature an interview with Russell Coutts, done not too long after the 34th America's Cup, which covers a lot of ground including an analysis of Emirates Team New Zealand, the future of the key players in the team and other comment along those lines, including his reflections on Oracle team USA's win in the last Match.

In this edition we also feature a review of the one of the new Olympic classes, and events - looking at the Nacra 17, which will be sailed in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 with a mixed gender crew. In December, we talked with the winner of the ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne, Darren Bundock and Nina Curtis. Both are Olympic Silver Medallists, and Bundy is one of the top Olympic catamaran sailors in the world. For the time being he has turned his back on the America's Cup and will be focusing on the Olympics. They have some interesting views on how the new class is shaking down, and how the male/female crew dynamics work. With Bundy and Curtis quickly on the pace this class could easily yield Gold for Australia in Rio. Next up for this crew is Miami OCR and we will follow the action there ahead of Palma, the first European regatta of 2014.

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