No wonder as Pim remarks, lots of 49er guys are onboard the AC45 series. And it is the same reason our best crews in Argentina come from the 29er fleet, of course, they are not going back, but sailing and training other boats is pure gain when sailing or racing a cat.
--Photo above: Gilles Martin Raget, Smooth Pim on the AC45.
Pim tell us his experience and tough work with China Team sailing and putting together the AC45, a big bet for all sailors involved in the project, and many other subjects like the F18 and the Olympics (he was 5th with Mitch Booth at Beijing, 2nd at F18 Worlds 2007 and 5th at Balaton helming with Fer Van West.
A complete sailor with lots of high performance and top level experience.
CSN- You've been in the AC45s with China team since first event. How was the experience on sailing them for the first time?
Pim Niewenhuis: The 45's are great machines. The wing is a cool feature, and straight-line sailing it is a very smooth ride. Its amazing what they put together in such a short time and it all seems to hold together pretty well.
That said they are not very "user" friendly in terms of boathandling, the spine combined with a lot of lines running diagonally over the tramp makes for a complicated working area.. the lack of a dedicated winch for the gennakerhalyard and sailing 5 up causes a few logistical issues.. But then again, it are supposed to be the best sailors sailing them so they should be able to work it out...
--Photo left: Pierrick Contin , Pim and Mitch Booth training on a Hobie Wildcat.
- You have previous experience on the X40s, How do you compare them in performance and in error margin to push hard?
PN: Yes I have sailed the 40s quiet a bit in the previous years. Regarding to the above I would qualify the 40 as lot more "user friendly". But the hull design, the rudders which are under the boat instead of stern hang, and other features make the 45 a more high performance boat.
You will be able to push a 45 a lot harder than a 40 specially in the bear aways, but pushing hard means getting punished equally hard when you get it wrong.
We have seen some relatively newcomers to the multihull game doing some really funky things on the 45 just because they didnt know any better and they got away with it. Some of that stuff you would never try on a X40 or any other multihull.
- CT was the first surprise of the circuit in the early races, for ie, it took almost 3 events to others to perform, but the original team with Mitch at the helm was right there at Cascais, also leading but losing on a handling error. I read rumours that you guys were doing the logistics work also and that affected your performance, as it was drecreasing with the races instead of peaking.
PN:Yeah, we surprised a few people during the early trials in NZL, taking the boat out of the container painting it, rigging it and sailing within a week, with only the sailing team and 2 Leathermans* and performing against Oracle and ETNZ.
(* + a bit of help from acrm's toolkit, I have to say)
Cascais was a late arrival for us, the team was present in Lisbon, but the boat wasn't released which meant we couldn't start rigging and training. But also in Cascais we had some glimpses of performance, but you are right, as a sailing team we were pretty much running the whole show, which eventually doesn't help performing on the water.
- So you were performing out of the box and without training , did these external sailing factors (working as shore crew etc) prevent better results?
Hard to feel pity for yourself and say that it did. But obviously seeing the other teams running around with 20-30 guys, made us look pretty average and for sure that has its effects on the water. But we all believed in the project and all hoped that by time the necessary funds would be found then things would get better. A typical example of maximum input and minimum return, but we were all prepared to take that for a certain period of time because the AC is a dream for a lot of us.
|Pim, Booth, Heemskerk and Dercksen, NED Tornado 2008.|
Photo Diana Boogards
PN:You are correct, i got fired by email the other day. That is apparently also the glamour of AC racing..
- Any chance for them to build a AC72?
PN:I doubt it, China team has until now been unable to secure the necessary funds to race the 45's properly and although they might make people believe that all is good, it isn't. Which is a shame because the country obviously has got a huge potential, the way China Team operates now does a lot of damage to our sport and image in China.
I sure hope and believe China has a great future in the AC and sailing in general, because it deserves to be there, but I am pessimistic about this particular China Team.
- Can the original crew of the AC45 join other team?
PN: There are plenty examples of people changing teams, a couple of "Koreans" spread out. So yeah why not, there are some good multihull sailors looking for positions.
You have a wide spread racing experience at top level on 49ers, F18s, M20 and the Olympic Tornado.
- Which was the boat you enjoyed most? and which was the most hard or technical to sail?
PN: Obviously I had my biggest successes in the Tornado, and I enjoyed the technical and development side of it. But to really answer your question (and yes i know this is cursing on catsailingblogspot**) I think the 49er is the most challenging boat to sail. I enjoyed both crewing and helming this boat and i believe it is the 49er which made me the sailor I am now. It doesn't surprise me that there is a lot of 49er sailors on positions in the AC and all around in professional sailing.
**CSN Note: Not that much, in fact I would recommend any sailor willing to improve to sail a 49er/29er and also the H16 solo and overpowered.
- You crew a lot with Mitch Booth , but you are also good skipper (5th last F18 Worlds with Fer Van West) which do you prefer most?
PM: I love sailing, and I love sailing fast boats. I am very competitive and I enjoy both positions. I have had a mentor who has meant a lot to me in the beginning of my sailing career, who always told me I should be a helmsman, but I enjoy both, its really helpful to your crewing if you helm every now and then, and vice versa. It gives a different perspective and you will appreciate each-others position a lot more once you know both roles.
Photos left, Tornado & 49er: ISAF
- Do you think girls can crew as hard as men in top level?
PN: Boys and girls have different physique, so you can't compare the 2 as crews. The mixed thing is a mistake if you ask me, but nobody did.
- What do you think of the boats for Olympic trials at Santander?
PN: Like i said i don't believe in the mixed idea, and as such don't follow much what is going on in terms of which boats are aiming to become the new Olympic equipment. I just wait and see, ISAF is probably gonna do something unexpected again so everything said about this before their decision is a waste of energy.
- Lots of talks and discussions now on past and current class rules, do you think another situation like 2010 Worlds is possible?
PN: I always have a lot of fun racing the f18's big fleets, and their relative performances are very similar which makes it cool. Less cool is it to drag the thing up the ramp...
The more competitive/professional a class gets, the more is asked from its rules and their management who should (at least try to) be a couple of steps ahead of things.
-Future of the class in your view?
PN: The f18 is, and has been a big class, but classes like that do have a lifecycle and maybe we are approaching the end of it? I think people are seeing the carbon 20's, curved boards and stuff like that and they want a part of that instead of sailing the f18 which is not very exotic.
--Photo left: AndrewLeiner.com | Pim and Fer Van West at the 2010 Worlds.
- Do you forsee a spread of the wings in the future, or it will only be an option for high end boats?
I watched Herbie´s M20 at the Texel, it and I thought it was pretty cool that someone took it on. They are cool toys and its really interesting but I do believe they will remain for the "happy few" to play with at least for the time being. The rest of us should be happy to just be able to drop their mains and go for a drink!
- Projects: Future and currently working on?
Funnily enough, after quitting China Team I only have mono sailing lined up. I would love to get back up on a hull though!
Contact Pim for coaching and Training services at www.pimnieuwenhuis.com