Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Taming the wing...

In trim by Peter Rusch - BMW ORACLE Racing

Dirk de Ridder - aka 'Cheese' - is the mainsail trimmer on board the BOR 90. Except now, there's no mainsail. Just an enormous wing sail. A veteran of three round the world races, he has previously been with AmericaOne and BMW ORACLE Racing in the America's Cup.

We caught up with him over the weekend following the final testing session in San Diego.

Q: How has using the wing sail changed what you do on board the BOR 90?

A: The wing has changed my job quite a lot. The biggest difference for me is that the loading of the boat is completely different. You don't have any mainsheet loads anymore; that's disappeared. And you rely much more on the instruments than on your eye. The first few days were difficult... I confused myself sometimes by thinking of it like a soft sail and it's not a soft sail.
Q: There are dozens of orange 'tell-tales' on the wing sail. Do you use them the same as you would with a traditional mainsail?

A: You do, but you can't see through the wing, so I work closely with Joey Newton (AUS), who tells me whether we have connected flow on the leeward side or not. Especially downwind, he's my vision and he tells me how we're going.

Q: How was the final week of testing here in San Diego?

A: We had a few really good days to close this testing session. They were long days and we did a lot to verify targets and experiment with a few things, so it was a successful week.

Q: Your last session on Friday took place in the bay, on a holiday, with hundreds of other boats on the same patch of water. From on board the chase boat, it seemed very crowded. Were there any nervous moments?

A: It was incredibly busy on the harbour and with a soft sail, you would never have contemplated doing that. But with the wing sail, you can stop so quickly and move the boat around so easily, it's much safer.

Q: Do you enjoy sailing with the wing sail, or is it too different from what you normally do?

A: I love it. I mean look at it. It's enormous. It's never been done before at this size. We've only scratched the surface on what it can do. There's massive potential to improve on it still. This came out of the box very well, which makes our life easier, but you have to stop thinking of this as a soft sail - it's very different.