Forty-nine years young

Andy Rice talks 470 development with London 2012 competitors Hannah Mills and Luke Patience

Seahorse: You and Stuart [Bithell] were leading the pioneers of 470 crews really bouncing hard off the trapeze handle…

Luke Patience: Well, the unlimited pumping rule in the class has dropped over time from 14kt minimum windspeed down to 8kt. And in a 470 the difference between 8kt and 10kt is massive. You can’t even class them in the same bracket of wind strength. By 10kt you are pulling on kicker, you are flat out and you are just starting to ease mainsheet. In 8kt you are absolutely not. You are so far from that.

You are all mainsheet tension. The flag coming up now at 8kt has opened up a huge opportunity to pump like a windsurfer and create power through hard leeches and fanning the leech. I would like to think that Stuart and I were among the pioneers. Even at our first regatta together, the 2009 worlds in Copenhagen [where they won a surprise silver medal], if I felt that the boat was sticking Stu would unclip for me; he would not be flicking his hips like a regular crew would do but he’s unclipping, he’s holding the trapeze loop, literally pulling and pulling as hard as he can in a downforce through the wire and just lighting the boat up.

It gives you options: you can either power the boat up and drop the bow for speed, or it allows me to really haul on the leeches and point up and chop the wind in half. Suddenly we know we can stay in a lane even if it’s looking like an absolute no-go. We can also seriously impact the boat to windward of us to lose their lane, even if we were a few boat lengths apart, because it just disturbs them so much.

SH: And the official name for this technique?

LP: (laughing) You know the answer... shagging.

SH: Shagging, right. Can’t wait to hear that on the BBC TV commentary. And is shagging having an effect on rig design?

LP: For us, yes, and I’m sure for other boats too. Surely people are aware of that. I can’t see how that wouldn’t make a difference. You are doing something radically different in a fickle wind strength. You can’t be having a spaghetti in the air that has got a barnyard door hanging at the back of it. You need depth and power and stability. We are needing rounder, harder leeches to be able to hold that power when the crew is bouncing.

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