Sailing: Satisfaction of success justifies living through hell

Andy Beadsworth, the new starting helmsman on GBR Challenge, contributes the first of his series of weekly columns from the America's Cup qualification series, the Louis Vuitton Cup, in Auckland.

Sunday night and this has been a good week. This has probably been my best week in the 18 months at GBR Challenge and, apart from getting married just over a year ago, the best week since the Olympic Games in Sydney. Going out to start the race against Prada on Thursday – I had survived the first day on Wednesday because racing was cancelled – was almost a relief.

The day before had been good because I had been able to settle back into the boat without being thrown in at the deep end. Unlike any other campaign I had been in, where you set your own goal and then work steadily towards it, here I was part of a team, working very hard, doing all the training, and yet was not taking part in the event.

And this was a real race. Due to the nature of America's Cup campaigns, I have done less races in those 18 months than at any time since I was in my teens. For someone whose whole life is to race, that can be hard.

There is often as much focus on the five minutes before an America's Cup race, when the two boats circle, push and shove each other as they fight for advantage as there on the two plus hours which the six legs then take to complete. The starting helmsman is probably the most pressured job in the race alongside the tactician.

The expectations of the whole team are on your shoulders and it can be a long two hours if anything goes wrong. You can lose the race before you have even started it. There is no second chance, no opportunity of a comeback. The way GBR Challenge, like Prada, has decided to go means that you hand that job over to the race helmsman, in this case our skipper, Ian Walker. And there is no escape from then having to work with the team to the maximum of your ability for the duration of the race. There is no point in burying your head in your hand and, in any case, there will be an in-depth analytical debrief at the end when 30-odd people will express, sometimes forcefully, their opinions.

Most of us in this game know each other, having raced against each other for a number of years. So we know each other's characteristics and before we ever line up a few things will already have been discussed. How can we play the opposition, to what extent will the conditions, and the known performance of the boat in those conditions, suit the way we would normally want to play it? What have the weather experts told us we should be aiming for in terms gaining control of either the right or left hand of the course.

But you have to be flexible, especially on the rapidly changing conditions of these Auckland race tracks. You have to be ready to make a quick change and then make it stick. One of the traps is having too fixed a preconception of what is going to happen in those five minutes. There is a level of risk which is acceptable and the level of risk goes up the more aggressive you are – but the rewards can be higher.

Behind executing the moves lie days and weeks and months of practice as I and my counterpart, Andy Green, made sure everyone on the boat knew what we were trying to achieve, how to achieve and then do everything at speed. At the end of the day the decisions are made and are constantly being updated, based on information from the tactician, navigator and strategist.

All the time the clock is ticking down. So my job has similarities with an American Football quarterback, except that he only calls one play at a time. I may have to make a string of calls from a playbook which has been the subject of hours of discussion and practice.

When it works, the satisfaction helps you understand why you put yourself under the pressure, the hell, the anxiety. Against the Swedes we achieved not just a good start but a winning start. Inevitably, we want more.

Andy Beadsworth was talking to Stuart Alexander

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there