Aussie skiff sailor and new helmsman in the America’s Cup, Nathan Outteridge is spending a lot of time on the water and in airports as he juggles his new role with Team Korea and the push for a medal in the 2012 Olympics with 49er crew Iain Jensen. Read on for part two of an interview with Outteridge:
Your bio says you live in Wangi Wangi - where the heck is Wangi Wangi?
OUTTERIDGE: (laughs…) It’s pronounced ‘Wonggee Wonggee’- it’s a little bay on Lake McQuarrie which is about a 1:45 minute drive north of Sydney. It’s near Newcastle - a big inland lake that’s actually a lot bigger than Sydney Harbor but with hardly any traffic on it and lots of dinghy and skiff sailing. Chris Nicholson - the driver on Camper in the current Volvo and also an Olympic 49er sailor lives in the same area. It’s a bit of a skiff breeding ground. I grew up there and once I got older I’d make the drive to Sydney every weekend where the competition and coaches are.
Who do you consider your competition out there?
OUTTERIDGE: Good question - there’s so many out there in sailing and it’s such a diverse sport. I used to really look up to Chris Nicholson when I was a younger kid because he was so close to what I was wanting to do - he was unreal on the 18-footers and three times World champion in the 49er - he was the guy I was always trying to chase - I was almost a generation ahead of myself. I thought if I could get to be as good as him I’d do pretty well in the world of sailing.
In terms of people who I race against - there’s obviously the Spanish guys Iker Martinez and Xabier Fernandez. They’ve been the benchmark for me over the past few years in 49er racing - when they came back at the recent test event it was very impressive to see how well they did with very little training on the boat. Tom Slingsby is one of my best mates and an unreal sailor and he’s really only sailed Lasers for the past 15 years but he’s been ratcheting up recently - whenever I get to race with him whether it’s in the Moth or the A, it’s always a good race - it’s fun competition between the two of us and I think you’ll see him go a long way in the Cup now with Oracle.
You’re working hard on your Olympic campaign?
OUTTERIDGE: Yes, I’m back home in Australia at the moment. We’ve been training the last couple of months in the 49er and are in the process of getting our equipment selected and sent over to England because the first major event will be Weymouth in mid June. In between the AC45 events, I’ll be doing the lead up events in the 49er as well.
Have you spending a lot of time in the 49er?
OUTTERIDGE: Yeah, I’ve been doing a fair amount but we train in blocks, we don’t train consistently months on end. We had a rest after the Olympic test event back in August and in November we did some training to the lead up to the Worlds in Perth in December. I took January off from 49ers and did the A-Class Nationals and a little bit of other yacht sailing. We did a small amount of 49er training in Feb and only just getting back into it now but once the boats get sent away next week I’ll be shifting gears again into the A-Class to remember how to sail a cat before I fly to Naples. Going sailing in a lot of boats which I’ve been doing over the past three-four years, and even with the Games coming up this year, I don’t really want to change that too much because I think that is what gives me an edge when it comes to racing the 49er. You get so much experience managing different types of boats that the 49er becomes more simple and easy when you get back to it.
What do you think your chances are for London?
OUTTERIDGE: We’re looking pretty good - we’ve been pretty solid in Weymouth over the last four events we’ve done and we’ve won all four events. We’re hoping we can carry that form through this year. We finished last year well winning the Worlds and we’ve only ever placed once outside the top three. The results speak for themselves and they build a lot of confidence for us but at the same time sailing is such a sport where nothing is certain and there’re so many variables. We’re just trying to make sure that every other little avenue that could go wrong wont go wrong. We’ve got a really good coach in Emmett Lazich who is overseeing our whole program and making sure I don’t compromise my 49er campaign with the Cup work.
* Weymouth is Outteridge’s second Olympics in the 49er - the first was Beijing where he led the event for about four days but missed out when they capsized in the medal race just before the line, dropping to fifth overall.
How have you developed as a sailor since then - you must really want that medal?
OUTTERIDGE: Yes, definitely. I think with your first Olympics you can get caught up in the moment - now I’ve been through that and I know how different the racing is. With the 49er we typically race in fleets - like 80 boats in all the events we do. At the Olympics with only about 20 boats the racing changes - you lose half of the good boats as you only get one per country. You have some boats who have never been in Gold Fleet suddenly there racing around you, so you need to be prepared for a different style of racing.
The test event this year in Weymouth was quite interesting. We only had 20 boats racing but the risk levels and everything all change a bit. We’ve accounted for what the changes are going to be and hopefully when we begin racing we’ll be ready for whatever the Olympics has to throw at us this time whereas last time we started our Olympics with a DQ in the first race and it was a very up and down event. We’re more experienced and prepared for what may come now.
The conditions will be very different from Beijing…?
OUTTERIDGE: Oh yeah - in China we sailed in hardly any wind - I was weighing 63 kilos to help the boat’s performance. I’m now a good 15 kilos heavier so that’s a big change in itself. I think the Games in Weymouth will be more like a normal sailing event than China. We’ll get a range of conditions and everyone has to prepare for that.
Who do you consider your mentor?
OUTTERIDGE: My parents (Tony and Jasmine) - they paid for everything I was doing as a kid - my dad was quite involved - he did what he could to get me where I am today. Since I’ve been in the 49er class I’ve had Emmett Lazich coaching me - he’s a great guy to work with and I’ve learned so much from him.
What’s been your biggest achievement in sailing?
OUTTERIDGE: What I’m most proud of is winning three youth Worlds back to back. It was a very difficult thing to do and you’re at such a young age being on an international stage. Winning three 49er Worlds is a big highlight as well. It’s also a very exciting thing to be offered the position to drive an America’s Cup boat at the age of 26. Even if it goes nowhere I feel like that’s an achievement in itself.
What’s your favorite boat to sail?
OUTTERIDGE: The Moth - it’s an amazing boat, it doesn’t matter what boat you’re sailing the Moth will probably always win.
Your favorite place to sail?
OUTTERIDGE: I’d have to say - I’ve sailed all around the world but every time I come home, wake up and look out the window it always seems to be the nicest place, even in winter, so much warmer than most places. I’m always surprised that there’re not more people sailing here.
*Outteridge’s hometown is Wangi Wangi, New South Wales, Australia. He started sailing at age 3 and began racing at age 5 on a Sabot. He had his first win at the Sabot Nationals, Yeppon, in 2000. He holds three World 49er titles, three ISAF World Youth titles, and a World Moth title.