GBR Challenge trimmer, Simon Fry, takes time out to bring us up to speed on what's been happening at Auckland's Viaduct basin…

GBR Challenge trimmer, Simon Fry, takes time out to bring us up to speed on what’s been happening at Auckland’s Viaduct basin?

“The past two weeks have been as hectic as any I can remember. Sailing is not possible today due to a 35 knot Northerly air stream which has turned the Hauraki Gulf into a no go area for all of the IACC boats.

Launch parties and sea trials are very much the done thing in NZ at the moment. We have now been camped in the viaduct for eleven months and whilst we are still definitely new kids on the AC block it is odd to see Stars and Stripes, Mascalzino Latino and Le Defi Areva going through all of the set up tasks that we ourselves had to deal with last September. Team Dennis Conner’s Stars and Stripes have shown their AC experience by quietly arriving in town and setting up their base with the minimum of fuss. They have shown considerable character after the sinking in Long Beach of their latest boat USA 77. Come the first round I think this team will be a tough outfit to beat.

The second Italian team (we regard Prada as the first) are probably the nearest in size, structure and experience to ourselves. They are new to the AC arena and have earned many plaudits for their approach and their new design ITA 72 is certainly strikingly different. The French arrived last week to be greeted by Greenpeace, who were demonstrating against the French for their sponsor links with nuclear testing. If the livery of their boat is anything to go by Areva will certainly bring some colour onto the racecourse. Prada have now arrived back in Auckland after their extending summer training session in Punta Ala. As ever they look well sorted and their newest boat ITA 81 is sure to turn heads.

Not wanting to miss out on anything the Kiwis have launched the first of their boats as well. Wild lasers, smoke, helicopters and fireworks made for a very loud and colourful evening as NZL 81 was officially welcomed into the TNZ stable.

There are now regularly 16 IACC boats sailing in the Hauraki Gulf. There is a mixture of in house racing and testing and now as the first round approaches there is a fair amount of unofficial racing between syndicates.

At GBR we have been sailing all hours possible as we try to learn everything there is to know about GBR 70. Hours of upwind and downwind tuning are essential to perfect trimming techniques, refine sail designs, test different appendages and generally absorb all the new information that is there to be gathered. On Thursday after testing downwind in cool 12-knot southerly breeze we found ourselves turning to go upwind testing some 34 miles from home. Needless to say the hours are long at present as we strive to ensure that we are competitive come October 1st. Luckily the evenings are starting to draw out and the need for our support vessels to test their nav lights daily should be short-lived.

In the loft we have never been so busy. I am sure that when people poke their head around the door they just see chaos, but I can assure them that it is excellently organised by the sail makers headed up by Martin Lee. I marvel at their appetite for punishment. They seem to think nothing of doing miracles on a daily basis. It goes something like this. We leave the dock at 10.00am promising to do no damage and swearing that we will not need any overnight operations. The sail RIB returns in at between 5.00pm and 6.30pm depending on the weather and what we have or haven’t achieved. Sails are unloaded and shipped into the loft and drying areas. The sail makers then all look at the trimming team and ask with unashamed hope “any work to do?” Somehow they pick themselves up and by 10.00am the next morning everything is ready to go again.

And one more thought before I head off for a team meeting – I thought I had better tell you so you hear from me, rather than one of my loyal crewmates. Last week I joined the elite club of GBR Challenge swimmers. Match race training in the Etchells last week saw me practicing my 25m front crawl much to the amusement of the morning briefing as the whole thing was on video. God bless technology…. “