It was merely a 7-footer, but for a 4-year-old Terry Hutchinson, his small Dyer dinghy was more than large enough to launch his sailing career.
“It’s just one of those things I could never get enough of, and still can’t,” he said, remembering his vessel being tied to the back of his parents’ cruising boat. “A life long love affair with it.”
Hutchinson’s sailing career — and love affair — will continue this week as the skipper of Sweden’s Artemis Racing, which will be taking part in the America’s Cup World Series in San Francisco Bay.
Yet the skipper, like any sound sailor, is already eyeing the competitive waters that loom ahead.
“This is purely preseason right now,” Hutchinson, 44, said of the AC World Series, a prelude regatta to the Louis Vuitton Cup and America’s Cup Finals in 2013. “The AC72 is what we’re all focusing on.”
The AC72 is a 72-foot catamaran that will be featured in both Louis Vuitton Cup and America’s Cup Finals. Throughout the World Series, the competing teams will prepare for the AC72 by sailing the AC45 — a scaled down 44-foot version of the larger catamaran.
But small version aside, the primarily monohull-sailing Hutchinson is taking this time to familiarize himself and his team with the new vessel as he sets his sights on the Louis Vuitton Cup next July.
“It’s getting more and more familiar every day,” Hutchinson said. “But in the same breath, we’ve been out training for the last week and there’s still plenty to learn. I’m under no illusion that we’re anywhere close to being as good as we can be. It’s a tall order what’s in front of us.”
And if the foreign ship wasn’t a tall enough order, the skipper views the upcoming course as a daunting one. And for the next 13 months, Hutchinson’s goal is to train and race the boat to its sailing limit — without fearing the consequences.
“The challenges are fairly plentiful,” he said of San Francisco Bay. “It’s an incredibly windy venue, in an incredibly overpowered boat. Those two make our jobs extremely difficult.”
Despite carrying the experience of winning the Louis Vuitton Cup in 2007, Hutchinson knows that winning the right to challenge the defending Golden Gate Yacht Club winners of 2010 will require exemplary teamwork.
“You don’t see any team in the world succeed if elements of it are weak,” Hutchinson said. “And this is no different. The team is as strong as the weakest person on the team.”
And while a skipper’s role is to navigate his crew and craft, Hutchinson knows that in sailing amid the wild waves and unruly winds of open water, some things are just beyond anyone’s control.
That, Hutchinson says, is “the beauty of sailing.”
Sailing, 40 years ago in a little dinghy in the waters of Hutchinson’s native Annapolis, Md., is where it all started.
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