America's Cup: Veteran Grinder tunes into the multihull

AC45 and AC72, crews will have to be fitter and more agile than the ACv5 yachts

Craig Monk, the experienced grinder on Artemis Racing, says the new America's Cup boats are more physically demanding than what's gone before - and he can't wait to face up to the challenge.

New Zealander Craig Monk is busting to get his hands on an AC45. New to catamaran sailing, like many of his America's Cup brethren, Monk had a taste at the first Extreme 40 event of the season in Oman. Now, he's hooked.

'I hadn't raced on a cat before Oman, so that was my first experience,' he confirms, saying he's already learned a lot through that one regatta about how demanding the multihulls can be, especially with relatively small crew sizes.

'The sailing ability of the crew has to be higher. You just don't get away with mistakes. You're in the wrong event if you think you're just going to sit on the side and get a ride,' he says.

'In the V5 boats (the monohulls used in the America's Cup from 1992 to 2007), it didn't matter if half the crew wasn't tuned in that day. If the boat was a click faster and pointing in the right direction you could win races. But I don't think that's ever going to happen in the catamarans. Every day, the full crew is going to have to be fully tuned in. Everyone. That's the difference. And for me as a sailor that's quite exciting.'

As a sailor Monk is a two-time winner of the America's Cup (1995, 2000) as well as an Olympic medallist (Bronze, Finn, 1992). He's won 18 national or international titles across five classes and estimates that as a grinder, he's been responsible for over 15-million punishing rotations of the handles on a grinding pedestal. That's a lot of power expended over the years.

01/02/2011 - Auckland (NZL) - 34th America's Cup - AC45 sea trial n°9

With that experience as a grinder comes a certain wisdom and Monk says the AC45 and the AC72 will require a different kind of grinder to past America's Cup boats. In fact, he says everyone on board will be a grinder of some description.

'You're going to 11 grinders (on the AC72),' he says. 'You'll have trimmer-grinders, pit-grinders, bowman-grinders. Everyone but the helmsman is going to have to pitch in because the boats are so demanding and there's only 11 crew on board.

'You can't carry the bulk and size you would on a V5 ACC boat. Moving around the cats quickly, you always have a higher heart rate. You're using your legs much more. If you're too heavy, you tire out. Overall, it's 50% harder I think than sailing on a V5 boat.'

So what does that mean for his gym sessions as he prepares to sail the new boats?

'Less heavy weights! All that's out the door now. It's more about agility, lighter weights, more repetitions, working at a higher heart rate. The races will be quicker, but that's still a long time to be working at near max heart rate. So the guys will have to be fitter, trimmer and more athletic. I don't think you can ever be fit enough.'

But he won't have to wait long to get out of the gym and onto the water on the AC45. Artemis Racing is currently preparing its new AC45 in New Zealand and is expected to begin test sessions in Auckland later this month.