America's Cup: Old and New
 Talking with Geordie Shaver in Miami

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Going Forward: Geordie Shaver
Stars&Stripes Bowman Calls the Line

December 9, 2010


Geordie Shaver
Photo:©2010 CupInfo

Geordie Shaver at the Oracle RC44 Cup in Miami took time out from his commentary duties to talk with CupInfo's Cheeko Matsusaka about what the veteran sailor sees coming at the front of the boat, including changes for the 2013 America's Cup:

What can you tell me about the role of the bowman on these soon-to-be old boats?

ďOn the old boats, the first and foremost is the starting line sequence.  Heís responsible on the bow for the overlap relative to the other boat thatís a big one if the bow can swing or not, time and distance to the line.  Most of the software at the back of the boat these days is good.  They donít rely on the bowman that much, but at the end of the day most helmsmen will rely on that bowman for the last 20 seconds.  So, like I said to the guys in the back of the boat, Iíve been sailing for 40 years,  I donít care if you donít look at me for the rest of the day, just give me the last 20 seconds just before the start because if Iím over early, itís egg on my face, not the computerís.  So thatís the first big responsibility.

ďAnd then also it depends.  Most bowmen are only as good as their pitman, the guy in the back whoís handling the strings that go up and down, because youíre moving a lot of halyards around fore and aft.  Youíve got a good pitman, youíre on the same page -- and youíre running the foredeck. 

ďSome guys I know like Josh Belsky, he likes to run the foredeck right from the pit.  When I sail with Josh, we have a bit of a clash. We sail well together, but you have me, with a bowman, with my career, I always like to run the front of the boat.  In other words Iím responsible for the front of the boat, so I like to make my decisions based on the two guys with me, the mastman and the bowman in front. 

ďSo, depending on your style, some guys like to get talked to from the back.  I like to talk aft and tell them what we're on, and I think once you get some respect in the business and people realize that, then they tend to trust you more.  Itís just like anything.

ďThose are the big responsibilities, and the sets and drops obviously, and youíre responsible for all the string lines, all those things.  Iím old enough to remember when there were no string lines.  There was just a main -- it would drop.  These days with string-line systems, itís a no-brainer.  You hook the thing up and you let it go, and itís just a little coordination between everybody on the boat for the halyard, the tacks, and the sheets.Ē

How do you see the bowmanís job changing with the new boats for the Americas Cup?

ďThe foredeck, as far as the role of the bowman, heís still going have a lot of responsibility because theyíre still going to be using gennakers off the breeze, I do believe, as they did on the trimaran and catamaran this time around.

ďAt high speeds on the netting, I havenít done it myself.  Iíve been involved in a little bit of it, but not like a lot of the guys like Brad Webb and the guys in the Oracle boat dealing with the bigger boats (Extreme 40s or 40-foots).  But these are going to be 72 feet, so the bowman is going to have his hands full.  And those high speeds create a lot of apparent wind and to be able to get these big roller-furl gennakers up -- youíre dealing with roller furlers at the front of the boat -- itís going to be a handful for these guys to do in any kind of seaway and at that pace.  Also, youíve got a net to store the thing on, but everything is exposed and youíre going at higher speeds.Ē

So in your opinion is the new boat a natural evolution or revolution? Or is that a loaded question?

ďYeah, itís loaded, but for me ... Iím a monohull guy.  Iíve been sailing monohulls my whole life.  I have catamarans at home.  We have little Hobie Cats we sail around in.  Itís just a different feel between monohulls and catamarans.  If you asked me right now if for Key West Race Week, like in 15 years, are we going to see all catamarans sailing down there?  Iím going to say no. 

ďWill I say in 15 years will we see catamarans in the Americas Cup?  I donít know.  It might be a one-shot deal, it could be a three-shot deal.  I couldnít tell you but me, personally, I think itís going to be great. 

ďI think what theyíre trying to do is do whatís good for the sport, trying to create a little more excitement.  So theyíre trying to change some of the traditions of the sport, keeping some of the tradition, but making it funner and a little more exciting ... to get things going, and get it good for TV, and also not have these jump-starts and stops all the time -- where in my case Iíd go work in a campaign for two years, then Iím a year or two off, and then would work for another three years. 

ďAnd then thatís why the [Louis Vuitton] Acts all started with rolling it through, trying to make it more like Formula 1, so guys like me -- actually Iím kind of out of it now, younger guys -- can actually make a living out of it, have a family, and buy a house, and do things like that.  Itíll work out one way or the other.

What do you think of the concept of expanding the audience base? Given the low turnout in the past here in the US as opposed to places like Valencia?

ďIn San Diego in Ď95, I used to get my hair cut a mile inland and theyíd say ĎOh, what are you doing down here, youíre from Northern California,í and Iíd say ĎOh, well Iím down here racing the Americas Cup,í and theyíd say ĎWhatís that?í

ďWhen we were in New Zealand for the 2000 Cup, we lost with Stars & Stripes.  We jumped into a camper van and drove all the way to the tip of the south island to Queenstown.  I got into a cab and the cab driver saw I had a Stars & Stripes shirt on and he started yelling at me that I changed rudders at the wrong time in the rounds, and so thatís the kind of thing you want.  Kiwis, and in Europe, theyíre all into sailing.  Itís a sport where people actually follow it.  Italy, itís huge.  Professional sailors, Paul Cayard, all these guys, theyíre all rock stars when they go over there.  Itís the country youíre from, and where it is.  Now am I saying that itís not going to happen, itís not going to gain speed in America?  Of course it is, just by Larry thinking about bringing it to San Francisco.Ē

Facebook or Flintstone?

ďFlintstone.  I never heard that terminology until yesterday!Ē


ďSee Iím not of Facebook, I couldnít tell you.  The thing is ... people in the Americas Cup always say itís a bunch of rich guys sailing around in sailboats.  Well, they have a point, but at the same time it doesnít mean we canít make it exciting enough to have the rich guys sailing their boats around and have people watch it.Ē

Thanks Geordie!

-- ©2010 Cheeko Matsusaka for CupInfo


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5:39 pm ET Dec 9 2010


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