Sunday, May 10, 2009

Valencia Sailing talks to Terry Hutchinson

Valencia Sailing spoke to Terry Hutchinson, the 2008 Med & World TP52 champion, on Thursday, when Quantum Racing had freshly arrived in Alicante after two weeks training in Valencia. Although confident about his boat and the team, the American sailor foresees a tough battle this year and takes nothing for granted.

Valencia Sailing: Let's first start with the boat. Have you made any modifications this winter?

Terry Hutchinson: We have carried out some changes inside the boat as well some minor structural changes, mostly to make her stronger. The hull and appendage package is the same.

Valencia Sailing: What about the crew? Are there any changes, departures or additions?

Terry Hutchinson: The only change this year is Dave Tank who will be taking over from Jeremy Lomas in the bow.

Valencia Sailing: You had a number of days training in Valencia and then in Alicante. What is the feeling you got from these first training sessions in 2009?

Terry Hutchinson: It was great. The nice thing about Valencia is that it guarantees you certain sailing conditions. We saw a wide range. We sailed a couple of days in a nice swell and an easterly breeze of 15 to 20 knots and then we had 4 medium training days with the Desafío team which was also very good. We left with the feeling that everything was where it should be but at the same time it is a little bit unnerving because everything went so well and the boat is much further along than we were hoping 4 months ago it should be. You feel the boat is very well prepared and having that feeling that early in the season is uncomfortable because you don't want any major mishaps to happen. We are now down in Alicante to put her through more days of of hard training before we get ready for racing.

Valencia Sailing: Does this mean I will to have to interview you again as the Medcup winner in a few months from now?

Terry Hutchinson: Don't rush, anything can happen between now and then.

Quantum Racing trains before the opening event of the 2009 AUDI Medcup. Alicante, 10 May 2009. Photo copyright Juerg Kaufmann /

Valencia Sailing: What is your take on this year's 3 new TP52 yachts, Artemis, Emirates Team NZ and Matador? Are they going to be tough competitors, especially the New Zealand team?

Terry Hutchinson: Well, I have seen many pictures on Valencia Sailing... Without any question they all are going to be very tough competitors. They were tough competitors last year as well and I don't expect anything different this year. Probably the biggest question mark in the AUDI Meducp will be the New Zealand boat because Marcelino Botín and his team have departed further away from where they were with our boat. The changes they are searching for, such as form stability through the hull shape, make me consider them a very difficult boat to beat in medium to breezier conditions when they reach higher heel angles. As for the Vrolijk boats, you know that all are going to be good boats, for example, the Desafío boat in the Copa del Rey last year [Hutchinson helmed her in that particular event] was a very nice boat to sail and given their history of very good boat designs I can imagine that they will not stop in this year's models either. I expect all 3 new boats to be very difficult to beat.

Valencia Sailing: The participating fleet is smaller this year. Will that translate into fewer competitors?

Terry Hutchinson: No, not at all. The competition will certainly be at least similar to last year. We also saw that boats like Pisco Sour and AUDI Q8 have modified their hull shapes in order to come closer to where we are so potentially, any speed advantage we had upwind last year will shrink as boats have come much closer. As a result none of the races will come easy and I refuse to think it's going to be anything but an absolute battle again.

Valencia Sailing: The 2009 AUDI Medcup will repeat the same venues than last year. Is that an advantage or a disadvantage?

Terry Hutchinson: From a logistical perspective that makes organizing the boat a lot easier. We are now again in Alicante and I'm staying in the exact same hotel room I was last year. It's also definitely easier if you go to a venue you have already been and you know where you are going and what you are doing. It also makes it much easier for teams to travel. I think that eliminating one of the regattas was a good move from the Medcup and having more time in between each event will help you better prepare for each regatta.

Valencia Sailing: You are the only American team actively participating in the Med TP52 circuit. Is this a result of the tough global financial situation or are there other factors?

Terry Hutchinson: BMW Oracle showed up for one regatta last year but I doubt you could consider them an American team. We were the only American team this year and last year and the short answer to your question is that the TP52 class is much more appealing and much more professionally oriented in Europe than it is in the US. That level of sailing doesn't necessarily exist within the TP52 class in the US. For us the easier thing to do was come over here with a sponsor and race the boat. The TP52 class will be a little bit smaller this year because of the tough financial situation worldwide but without a doubt it will be as competitive. When you look at the American entries in this class in the last 4 years there was never a big American presence to begin with. I don't think the finances are the issue, it has more to do with the logistical problems that come with doing a circuit in Europe.

Valencia Sailing: Quantum Sails uses a nice helicopter shot of your boat for their ads and refer to David and Goliath. How important a factor were the sails in the success of your campaign?

Terry Hutchinson: Obviously the sails are extremely important and we all are very happy with the Quantum sails on our boat. Last year proved that it doesn't really matter if you use the X brand or the Y brand, it's more the process you go through in order to get the team and the sails to the level that you need to win. Last year Quantum proved that their products were at least as good as, if not better than, the North products and if the fact we won 4 of the 7 regattas we sailed doesn't tell everybody in the world that the Quantum products are as good as North's then I don't know what else we would have to do.

Quantum Racing trains before the opening event of the 2009 AUDI Medcup. Alicante, 10 May 2009. Photo copyright Juerg Kaufmann /

Valencia Sailing: Has your team's success convinced other TP52 teams to make the switch to Quantum Sails?

Terry Hutchinson: Yes, the Russian team purchased all its sails for the season and that is good for Quantum Sails.

Valencia Sailing: What about your own sails? I suppose you carried out tests with new sails here in Valencia. Will we see any quantum leap in Quantum Racing's sails this year?

Terry Hutchinson: From our perspective, we set as our benchmark design the sails we used in the World Championships in Puerto Calero. From that point everything developed around the sails and what we will do is set them as our benchmark and from there quantify the shapes and determine where we want to go from the shapes we have right now. That will be defined by how we compete against everybody and through Quantum's own design program and the VPP work they do. We have targeted certain sail shapes that we like and we will start adjusting different flying shapes around these base numbers. We will match it with the boat's performance and see where we get to. It's always a little bit like witchcraft. You always try to do things compared to what people are doing next to you. The computer might tell you that something should go fast and then the sailors will have to go out and make sure we have that flying shape and then determine whether it is actually fast.

Valencia Sailing: You sound confident and cautious about this season. What final result would be a disappointment for you? Will you be disappointed if you finish second overall in the AUDI Medcup circuit?

Terry Hutchinson: Yes, we will all be disappointed although matching last year's result will be very difficult for us to do. Still, the message from a team meeting we had was that if we sail as well as we did last year, we do everything as well as we did last year and raise our game to be successful and still have someone beat us then we will just have to raise our hands. We will know we have done everything we could possibly do to be successful. If someone beats you under these circumstances that's sport, you will have to take it for nothing more or less than just that. Our job is to control all the little items and details in our boat and let the rest of it sort itself out. We know it's a long season, it's 50 races and there will be a lot of opportunities.

Now, to try and go much further than that and say that a 3rd place will be a disappointment will be a mistake. Sailing is a sport where each race is very difficult. We will always have an opportunity as a team to get better. In my mind, our goal is to increase the performance of our boat, sail better as a team and make sure that we cover all the details. If we do all that then the result will be taken for itself. We can't focus on being 1st, 2nd or 3rd and at the same time on the process on our boat. I don't know if that answers your question but I'm not going to put a number because it also depends on a lot of other things that we can do better.

Valencia Sailing: Last but not least, shorter term, you are one of the first teams to arrive in Alicante. What conditions have you experienced and what should we expect during the regatta?

Terry Hutchinson: We had a couple of days of beautiful conditions, 15 to 18 knots of sea breeze, and that leads me to believe that the regatta week will not be as good!! Jokes apart, I hope we have a really good week of sailing since last year we had quite a mixed bag of conditions.

Emirates Team NZ is Terry Hutchinson's big question mark for the 2009 AUDI Medcup. Alicante, 10 May 2009. Photo copyright Juerg Kaufmann /

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At 11:32 AM, Blogger Doug said...

Pierre, thanks for a quality interview without any nonsense about GGYCvSNG! Ask quality questions about this event, and this event gains in stature.

At 2:33 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Great interview. Your work is fantastic. Good luck with the coverage of the regatta.


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