Iain Percy describes how he's getting used to a boat three times longer, 37 times heavier and a hundred times more complex than a Star
Racing was cancelled today as 25-30 knot winds swept across the Gulf of Valencia just as the forecasts had predicted. But just in case you think that AC crews are a bit on the timid side when it comes to a big blow, here’s what an America’s Cup boat feels like to a man with a medal and plenty of hours afloat in the quest for success.
We might have heard it all before from some of the more seasoned crews, but there’s a fresh perspective on AC racing from some of the latest newcomers to the scene, most notable that of Iain Percy. Fresh from the Olympics and now skipper of an America’s Cup campaign, Percy talks about what it’s really like when the going gets tough.
“I really do struggle with the big bus and a tiny rudder, but there are certainly some techniques I need to learn about re-attaching the flow. But it’s just one of the problems that we’ve had to cope with so far,” he said.
“We’re not only new to the boat, but we’re new to match racing so there’s a massive area to work on. But it’s not so much knowing the moves, it’s more about when how these boats work. How they accelerate, when to dump the main and when it needs to come on in order to let me do what I want to do with the boat.
“We need to get that kind of communication and understanding up to speed. Here we’ve got a language issue as well, for some of the crew English isn’t their first language.
“I think we nearly lost the rig a couple of times. I was quite nervous at the time but fortunately we didn’t. We are all learning and one thing we keep reminding ourselves even when we’re in the heat of the battle that it’s safety first. Forget winning races, it’s safety first and not damaging the boat any more than we did but more importantly it’s about not damaging people.
“I probably appreciate that more than most coming from a smaller boat where the loads are never at the point of being a danger. Today, with the noise involved, it didn’t half bring it home to me that you do not want something breaking on someone and killing them.
“The real noise is when you let out the mainsheet, it’s deafening. I’m losing my voice trying to shout above it, we need some of those mic systems that the other teams have.
“I was amazed that we are often on the edge of losing it, not in a dangerous way, but out of tacks and the likes. When the boat’s very heeled and with such a small rudder, it’s no mean thing to control.”
So, after an abandoned day, tomorrow’s racing sees another action packed plan for three flights. For one of them I’m planning to be riding as 18th man aboard the French team le Defi while broadcasting live in the match between them and the South African team Shosholoza.
Don’t miss it, or indeed any of the other matches and remember to take your discrete headphones into work and cancel all meetings for the day.
Racing starts at 11.40 local and the breeze is forecast to be 20 knots in the morning and decreasing during the afternoon.
Follow the action live from Valencia as Matthew Sheahan, Andy Rice and James Boyd report from the course.
To listen to the daily commentary log on to the official site at;