America's Cup: From Opti to AC45 – the stuff of dreams

New Zealand National Optimist Champion, Leonard Takahashi-Fry on the handlebars of the AC45
From Opti to AC45 – the stuff of dreams - an Optimist sailor writes of his America's cup experience

On a damp Wednesday morning on 27th April 2011, six excited young sailors – selected from the recent 2011 NZ Optimist Nationals – were lucky enough to be invited to crew on the AC45. We met at 0900 for an introduction to the boat by Oracle Racing’s Designer, Mike Drummond. We learned many facts and figures on the mammoth wing-sail and its design origins from the C-Class.

We then changed ready to hit the water for the sail of a lifetime. It became apparent to us when being towed out to the racing area that we were in for an amazing ride. I was aboard one of the two Oracle Racing boats and it shone out from the other four boats due to its distinctive white mast.

Mike Drummond explains the wing-sail
Tim Adair

To my surprise, skipper James (Jimmy) Spithill invited me to take the helm as we entered the Hauraki Gulf. Shortly after, I put in the first tack of the day! I was very nervous but with Jimmy by my side, my nerves were calmed and I started to feel like this is what I could do in the future. It was an amazing piece of machinery / art, you could feel every little adjustment made by the crew, with the helm surprisingly light and ultra-responsive.

Tacking was like a military exercise as you had to crawl over all the ropes and the central spine which is like a long beam running the length of the boat. One intimidating moment was crawling over the spine and seeing the huge boom and wing-sail above that could fall on you anytime.

Tim takes the AC45 helm
Tim Adair

After my turn on the helm, my two friends William and Leonard had a go to skipper. After we had all had a shot on the helm, Jimmy showed us how to really control the big Cat.

Day 2 practice racing followed, so we were put on the big Oracle Racing support RIB.

Watching first hand, close-up, full-on racing from the comfort of the RIB was an amazing spectacle, like a clash of the Titans. It was a great day that I’m sure none of us will ever forget. That’s one of my 'things to do before I die, ticked off'!

Thank you, Oracle Racing

Tim Adair