Jul 17, 2016

1M World Match Racing Tour 2016 Final: Q&A with James Wierzbowski

Photos: Ian Roman / WMRT - Official web  wmrt.com --  James Wierzbowski, one of the recent members of the Team that won the 1Million Dollar World Match Racing Tour Final, started his carrier sailing Hobie 16 later F16s & F18s, I remember him being featured here in many occasions, just put James Wierzbowski in the search box to the right and you will find plenty of results on the different classes he has been involved into.

I put emphasis in his sailing background as its clear you can build a career upon racing cats, of course the more classes you race the better, but as Catsailors we are glad major sailing event right are now being held in Multis, being the Americas Cup or the WMRT.

But we are also sometimes obligated to point some flaws in Multis, and the M32s tacking features is one o them. Analogy for a golfer is being obligated to score bogeys as best scores or a Tennis player having only one serve, but we all want to see Mickelson scoring birdies & eagles and aces for Federer or Novak.
Same for Match Racing, we want to see both teams nailing those tacks and pushing each other to the limit without restrictions, as Stenson & Mickelson (what a Match Play today..) did in the 3rd and 4th round of the Open.

Adding jibs to the M32 will only bring more fun, more tasks to the crews, so I don´t see any harm in adding it, all the contrary, also will give sailors a deserved tool to match their hardcore efforts put in those great Match Races, more if you are competing for a Million usd.

Watch the the great final again here with teams sending it hard and the M32s showing to be well suited to race in any condition.
Knowing James was involved in the winning team we got in touch for him to tell us how was experience such a great event, and to inspire other beachcat sailors to follow him.

Check their official Team fb page facebook.com/PhilRobertsonRacing/
- CSN: Past weekend you were part of the team who won the and historic 1M WMRT at Marstrand . Name the crew/positions and when the team was gathered ?
James Wierzbowski: We have sailed together with this team since the June Newport event. Before that it was Phil and I with various crew.
Phil Robertson NZ - Skipper
Stewart Dodson NZ - Traveller
James Wierzbowski AUS - Float
Will Tiller NZ - Mainshee

- You have experience sailing and racing beachcats, how was the transition to sail bigger cats?
JW: I’ve come from Hobie 16, Viper/ F18, N17 and 49er. The first big cat I sailed on was the AC45 for the Red Bull Youth Americas Cup. The transition was quite easy, the skills are the same. The hardest part was learning to deal with high loads and winches.
Will, Stewart and I all competed in the RBYAC and then the Extreme Sailing Series. Stewart is currently Trimmer for Red Bull and I am Bowman for Oman Air. Phil got his big cat time in some Americas Cup World Series and with Gazprom in the Extreme 40’s. I think we can attribute a lot of our success to this. Not only for the big cat experience but the tight boundary fleet racing experience is priceless.

- The M32s in the breeze look fast and with lots of pitch margin, which max speed you have achieved?
JW: Martsrand was the most breeze we have ever sailed with the M32. We were getting easy to Mid 20’s before we had to throw another gybe. They bear away is incredibly forgiving even in the big waves we had. We could sail in even more breeze with a bigger race course, but it was definitely close to the limit for the final race.

- How is the handling, I mentioned in the web before about the need for a jib for the M32s,
more for match racing. We also watched Robertson saying the same in the live stream, as tacking is rather tricky without the jib and sometimes you need to unfurl the gennaker like both teams going backwards at the finals.
JW:Without a doubt the boat would tack easier and faster with a jib. But we prefer it without... It just raises the required skill level of the whole team by a long way, the whole crew must be much more switched on and raises the need for that traditional catamaran experience. Although I never thought I'd be backing down tacks for $1m!

- What about the weight limit you told me about? 
JW:We are the first team of 4 to sail with all 4 on the rack. The class rule is total crew weight less than 350kg and no more than 300kg on the rack, hence why everyone sails 3 on the rack and skipper sitting in. Our team secretly dipped our weight to under 300kg for the weigh in, allowing us to sail with everyone on the rack. No one had thought of this and it allowed us to have similar righting moment as a heavy team but be much lighter total weight. We went 27 hours with no food or water, with sailing sessions, plus sauna time! It wasn’t easy! The thing you need to make up for is being fit and strong enough to muscle the boat around the track in the big breeze.

- How about the crash in the Final? I've seen the clip over and over and I don´t see how you guys could have avoid that , more with such slow tackings, Canfield was left anchored in front or you
JW: The crash was a tough one, its debatable how much room Taylor needed to tack around that mark, in hindsight we should have tried to go around the above or do a better job to dip… Good thing we love a challenge.

- Also I saw Yann Guichard in previous event to be the first in keeping both boards down while downwind , a la Nacra 17, you did the same in the finals and got some skimming mode  which was the overall trim you guys used through the event?
JW: I campaigned the Nacra 17 for 2 years which helped a lot coming onto this boat. Things are very similar, it’s faster with good breeze until you lose the balance. There are no winglets on the rudders so you need to be very careful with body weight and kite trim. We had more boards down than Taylor in the finals and felt we had the edge. The whole boat only weighs 500kg, so its very sensitive.

-Do the M32s need different setups like mast rake according wind conds, or they have an all round setup?
JW: All the boats are set up the same before they leave the dock and the shore team do a great job. TheY are adjusted for the days wind and set, we can only play with normal sail controls on the water.

- How was the process to reach the finals at Marstrand?
JW: We had a tough run to the finals and never lost a race the whole week (except for the crash). We won 3 - 0 over Dackhammer (3rd Copenhagen), Guichard who top qualified in the fleet racing and Jerwood who finished 3rd. I feel we didn’t leave any doubt.

- Tell us about the final itself, I imagine lots of pressure & adrenaline for both teams, more sailing in that breeze and coming from behind after the hit penalty. Last race was super close too until Canfield penalty.
JW: There is no other way we would want to race for a World Title and that kind of money than in 30 knots and big waves. That’s everything you could dream of. Our team are all really good mates, we have known each other for a long time so there is no egos. We knew we had the edge and that gave us a lot of confidence to make that comeback. Although when I re-watch the footage we look a long way behind at times!

- You've won a 1M ! what's next ???
Our feet haven’t touched the ground yet! I have a lot of Extreme Sailing Series events in the next couple months, so need to keep pushing hard with Oman Air. But for sure we are focused on the next season of WMRT and another World Title. The format and the racing is so much fun, we couldn’t be happier with the new direction of the series.

James Wierzbowski
To contact James and Team Phil Robertson go to facebook.com/PhilRobertsonRacing/