The 34th America’s Cup is proving to be the place for Nathan Outteridge to showcase his talents both on and off the water. After a roller-coaster ride with Artemis Racing this past year, the 26-year-old Aussie talent has taken the best of the experience to apply to his own sailing in the 49er and the Moth, as well as to position himself in a good place for the 35th America’s Cup. Over the past week the sailing world has enjoyed the benefit of his knowledgeable commentary from the racecourse of the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, and now the 34th America’s Cup. While it’s all wrapped and packed up at the Artemis Racing base, the team’s helmsman is taking every opportunity to train on San Francisco Bay for the upcoming 49er World Championship in Marseille, France (September 21 to 29), and the Moth Worlds in October in Hawaii. Here Outteridge talks about all things AC and what’s next on his dance card.
How did you end up commentating for the Red Bull Youth America's Cup and the AC Final?
NO: I was asked by ACTV to do some guest commentating during the Louis Vuitton Final—being on stage and giving a few comments here and there between races. I guess they liked what I was saying so they asked me to do the Red Bull event for them. It worked out pretty nicely for me, and I was going to be watching the racing anyway.
What was your take-home from the RBYAC?
NO: Pete Burling has just turned 22 so he’s pretty young, but he’s already done two Olympics. Most of these guys are only a few years younger than me. A lot of guys in the Red Bull fleet who’ve been sailing 49ers I’ve been sailing against for six years. To me they’re basically my peers. Their skill level was really high even though they didn’t get a whole lot of time to train in the boats. They could have competed quite easily with the normal World Series teams.
What did you observe in their tactical skills?
NO: I thought they were quite aggressive in what they were doing, but you could see that there was a lack of consistency amongst the boats. Pete seemed to be the only team that had that consistency and ability to get back through the fleet. They were making mistakes thoughout the racing, like they weren’t furling up their sails properly at the bottom mark, which was costing them when they went to deploy them at the top mark, they had knots, etc. By Days 3 and 4, there were none of those mistakes, so you could see their learning curve was still progressing throughout the racing. It was good to see that they were given an opportunity like that. There were no major crashes, no one did anything wreckless—they were just there trying to make their mark in the sport.
Your next event is the 49er Worlds?
NO: Yes, we [myself and Iain Jensen AKA Goobs] haven’t sailed at all since the Olympics. I always like to plan to have something to do after a big event because if you don’t you kind of feel really flat. Goobs and I decided to do the 49er Worlds to touch base again with the 49er fleet and make our big decision on where we’re going to go from here. It’s hard to know exactly what’s going to happen in the Cup until someone wins, and we know where it goes so we have a little time up our sleeve to get back to some racing. This year’s been pretty tough—I’ve done two events and normally I do 20. You feel like you’re missing out on the actual racing. It’s been great to be involved in the team and learn all the America’s Cup team processes, but the racing’s been lacking. So, for the last two weeks Goobs and I have been putting the 49er in the water, and I’ve also been doing quite a lot of Moth sailing for the Moth Worlds.
What have you learned transitioning from the 72 back to the smaller boats?
NO: You just learn how much easier little boats are logistically—we can show up, be in the water in half an hour, go sailing for 2 hours, come in, pack up in half an hour, and that’s your day done. Whereas just trying to get the big boat in the water, even the 45, you need extra people to launch the boats, pack the boats up, you need coach and safety boat support, so it’s all the extra things required. It’s much more difficult. We’ve learned so much more about our little 49er sailing just this week, which would take months to do on a big boat just because of the practicalities of the boats.
Foiling and the Moth: what translates from the 72 to the Moth?
NO: I learned a lot from the Moth to put into the 72, and then sailing the 72 and feeling how that works and having a bunch of really smart designers to give you information was really interesting. The main thing I learned was that your control systems are extremely important, and your foil shapes are really important. A lot of my Moth sailing was through feel—you try something, you learn, and you feel the change. I’ve been getting good explanations from some of our design team as to why something happens on my Moth, the logic going on behind it because before I’d keep crashing and just change it until I worked it out. So while translating exactly from the big boat to the Moth is quite different, the principles are still the same. I don’t really have much time to try the ideas for the Moth that we have, but I think in the next year you’ll start to see what we’ve learned throughout the last three years with the 72 will trickle down to little boats, like the Little America’s Cup C-Class—they’re all foiling around like 72s. I’ve been in the 49er class where it’s just myself and my crew and our coach, then we get a few experts come in and help every now and then, and our budget is so small. I spend a lot of time at the base just trying to talk to people on the team, then it’s trying to harness that information and follow it in the right direction.
The Moth is a 100-percent development class; what are the restrictions on improvements?
NO: The only rules for the Moth are the length of the boat, the width of the wings, the area of the sail, and the mast height. Otherwise you can use materials as you like, have as many sets of foils as you like for an event. So I’ve got like three sets of foils, the standard set which I’ve made some tweaks to, another foil coming which we’re going to try to make some changes to for the Worlds to see if what we’ve learnt at Artemis Racing is going to help.
What’s the 49er fleet looking like at the moment?
NO: It’s pretty much the same as it was at the Olympics and before that. A few people have stopped sailing, and there are a few new teams. Pete Burling and Blair Tuke just won the Europeans in the only event they’ve done this year, and they’re our benchmark. We trained with them for four years, and the fact that they won is a good sign because it means no one has jumped up—we think we’re pretty similar to those guys. We’ll be a little bit rusty in our boathandling and we haven’t done any racing, so we’ll have to learn how to get that back pretty quickly.
Photo: ACEA/Frances Kupersmith