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Terry Hutchinson hopes to make American Magic sailing team in unfamiliar role | COMMENTARY

A good look at Defiant, the American Magic campaign's first AC75, foiling on Pensacola Bay.
A good look at Defiant, the American Magic campaign's first AC75, foiling on Pensacola Bay. (Sam Greenfield/American Magic/SAM GREENFIELD)

As skipper and executive director of American Magic, Terry Hutchinson is participating in his fifth America’s Cup campaign.

In the previous four, Hutchinson was a key member of the afterguard — serving as mainsail trimmer aboard America One (2000), tactician for both Stars & Stripes (2003) and Emirates Team New Zealand (2007) and skipper of Artemis Racing (2011-12).

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Normally, it would be a no-brainer that Hutchinson would be calling tactics onboard American Magic when the Prada Challenger Selection Series begins in mid-January. However, this is not your typical America’s Cup cycle as the boats being used have never been seen before.

Defending champion Emirates Team New Zealand made the radical decision to contest the 36th America’s Cup in 75-foot foiling monohulls. That was a departure from the previous two America’s Cup regattas, which featured wing-sailed foiling catamarans.

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However, the basic technology carried forward and Hutchinson naturally sought sailors intimately familiar with foiling. That is why American Magic’s afterguard consists of helmsman Dean Barker, mainsail trimmer Paul Goodison and flight controller Andrew Campbell.

Barker, a 47-year-old New Zealand native, participated in both foiling America’s Cups — steering for Team New Zealand in 2013 and SoftBank Team Japan in 2017. Goodison, a 43-year-old from Great Britain, is a pioneer in the foiling field — a three-time world champion in the Moth class. Campbell, a 36-year-old San Diego native, was with Oracle Racing throughout the last America’s Cup cycle.

These innovative AC75 vessels incorporate the technology of a Formula One race car and a jet airplane. They lift out of the water on foils and literally fly around the racecourse with breathtaking speed.

Hutchinson quite accurately wondered aloud if Barker is “the helmsman or the pilot?” Campbell controls the flight of the boat using a display box that manages the foils, canting angles and boat trim.

Barring debilitating injury, which is quite possible in these potentially dangerous racing machines, those three sailors — Barker, Goodison and Campbell — will comprise the afterguard of American Magic when it competes with Challenge of Record Luna Rossa of Italy and Ineos Team UK.

Hutchinson, an Anne Arundel County native, was introduced to foiling during his time with Artemis Racing in 2011 and 2012. He led the Swedish challenger to victory in the match racing portion of the America’s Cup World Series at both the Naples and Venice regattas.

Hutchinson and Artemis Racing mutually parted ways prior to the 2013 America’s Cup in San Francisco. That campaign came to a tragic end when the first of the AC72 foiling catamarans the team was testing capsized, killing crew member Andrew “Bart” Simpson.

In his role as American Magic skipper and executive director, Hutchinson is responsible for managing the campaign from soup to nuts. The Harwood resident consults with syndicate principals Doug DeVos, Hap Fauth and Roger Penske on all matters, but ultimately must make the difficult decisions.

“When it comes to getting American Magic prepared for the America’s Cup, the buck stops with Terry,” said Fauth, who holds the title of chief executive officer of American Magic.

It was Hutchinson who ultimately made the call to turn a traditional 38-foot monohull into a foiling prototype for testing purposes; Hutchinson who ultimately decided to have American Magic builds its own boats; Hutchinson who elected to contract with Offshore Spars in Detroit, making it the only one of four America’s Cup entries not using Southern Spars of New Zealand.

Hutchinson, who has captured 15 world championships during his illustrious 30-year career as a professional sailor, served as sailing manager for a series of grand prix race boats owned by DeVos and Fauth. The two-time Rolex Yachtsman of the Year has called tactics for Fauth aboard his Maxi 72-footer Bella Mente and DeVos with the Quantum Racing TP52 program.

There was never a question who would oversee an American’s Cup campaign funded by those two businessmen.

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“Terry’s done a fabulous job of pulling the project along. We couldn’t have asked for anybody better in that most important position,” Fauth told The Capital in a telephone interview. “We’ve continued to do better than our numbers. We’re working on this progressively with the goal of always doing better than last week’s numbers.”

While currently focused on the big picture and the overarching game plan, Hutchinson wants to be part of the starting sailing team. He already made the tough call that Barker, Goodison and Campbell were better suited to the three afterguard positions.

That leaves eight remaining crew spots, and all are for grinders. Hutchinson has been training as a grinder and is competing with 16 other sailors to make the starting lineup.

“I’m working hard every day to be a grinder. I have to earn my spot just like everyone else,” Hutchinson said. “If I’m not one of the best eight grinders, I won’t be on the boat when racing starts.”

On these innovative AC75 platforms, the grinders are responsible for producing oil pressure for the boat. All systems are run by hydraulic pumps that are fueled by the oil pressure.

In 2017, Team New Zealand used a group of professional cyclists to power its hydraulic systems. Peddling is not legal under the AC75 class rule so the eight grinders will be operating in the more traditional manner, using their arms to turn winches. All eight grinders operate from the same cockpit with two sharing one pedestal.

Hutchinson thinks there could be an advantage by having a grinder with a tactical mindset. However, that factor won’t override the primary job of grinding.

“When I’m on the boat as a grinder, I’m giving feedback to Dean, Paul and Andrew. You don’t want any of those three guys distracted because they’re all totally focused on boat speed,” Hutchinson said.

“It’s boundary racing so there is definitely strategy. I’m not as strong as some of the other guys on the team as a grinder, so I need to provide good tactical information to make up for the power I can’t produce.”

Hutchinson hopes to be sailing in the America’s Cup because he’s an intense competitor and cannot imagine having to watch the action from a chase boat. Also, he finds the AC75 absolutely exhilarating.

“It’s awesome to be involved with something that’s so completely different. This is such a different discipline and a different science than what we’re accustomed to because it’s so high-tech,” he said. “I’ve had a couple opportunities to steer the boat and it’s just incredible. It’s like driving a high-performance race car.”

According to Hutchinson, the difference between upwind and downwind sailing aboard an AC75 is a “50-millimeter ease on the main sheet” to adjust the mast rotation. “To an untrained eye, it would be difficult to determine whether we were going upwind or downwind,” he said.

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Which begs the question: Is racing an AC75 foiling monohull true sailing or more like flying a boat?

“It’s sailing, for sure. All the basic physics and principles apply in terms of drag, proper sail shape, stability and lift,” Hutchinson said. “It’s still extremely important to make sure the boat is set up properly. When it’s not set up properly, you find out that much faster.”

Assessing the fleet

Team New Zealand brings back basically the same team that captured the America’s Cup by beating Oracle Racing, 7-1, in 50-foot foiling catamarans. Glenn Ashby serves as skipper and wing trimmer with Peter Burling as helmsman and Blair Tuke as flight controller.

TNZ created the foiling monohull design concept and therefore had a huge head start on the competition. Luna Rossa, as Challenger of Record, was granted access to the design package long before American Magic and Ineos Team UK.

Max Sirena, who has participated in seven America’s Cup campaigns, is skipper and team director for Luna Rossa Challenge. Sirena was on the winning side of the last two America’s Cup competitions — with Oracle Racing in 2013 and Team New Zealand in 2017.

James Spithill, helmsman for Oracle Racing throughout its history, now holds that position with Luna Rossa Challenge. Some of Italy’s most renowned sailors are members of the team, including operations manager Gilberto Nobili, Francesco Bruni and Vasco Vascotto.

Ineos Team UK is led by Sir Ben Ainslie, the most successful Olympic sailor of all time. The 43-year-old from Macclesfield, England captured medals (four gold, one silver) at five consecutive Olympics while competing in Finn and Laser class.

This is the continuation of the British campaign from the previous iteration of the America’s Cup when Ben Ainslie Racing, representing the Royal Yacht Squadron, was eliminated in the semifinals of the 2017 challenger series.

Ainslie played an integral role in helping Oracle Racing defend the America’s Cup, serving as tactician as the United States syndicate rallied to beat Team New Zealand, 9-8. He is skipper and helmsman for Ineos and has two trusted friends in key roles.

Giles Scott, another Olympic gold medalist on behalf of Great Britain, figures to assume the role of flight controller. Ian Jensen, an Australian, served as wing trimmer for Artemis Racing in two straight America’s Cups.

Ineos Team UK jumped onto the SailGP circuit last February and promptly won the season-opening Sydney regatta. This is the second season for SailGP, a series contested using F50 wing-sailed foiling catamarans.

While American Magic has more time on the water aboard its AC75 than any other challenging syndicate, Hutchinson chuckled when asked if he’s concerned about where the campaign stands in relation to Ineos, Luna Rossa and TNZ.

“I’m extremely concerned every day. I’m concerned out of respect for our competition — just knowing how good they are,” said Hutchinson, who was inducted into the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame in 2018.

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