With 12 months to go until their boat is built, and only two years until the start of the America’s Cup, the Dutch team have come up with an innovative way to keep up with the competition.
Playing computer games, on dry land.
“We will be wearing 360-degree virtual reality glasses and we’ll basically be playing PlayStation,” Carolijn Brouwer of DutchSail told CNN Sport by phone from her home in Sydney.
Training on dry land in a virtual sailing simulator “will be a little bit like what they do in Formula One, or pilots training in a flight simulator,” said Brouwer, who became the first female winner of the 45,000 nautical mile Volvo Ocean Race, alongside France’s Marie Riou, as a member of the Chinese-backed DongFeng team last year.
“It may sound a bit like child’s play, but it will make the move to training on the actual boat next year a lot easier,” said the 46-year-old Dutchwoman, who is helping to lead and develop the first Dutch America’s Cup bid alongside skipper and 2010 and 2013 America’s Cup winner Simeon Tienpont.
Brouwer is also in contention to become the first female helm of a challenger boat in the long history of what’s also known as the ‘Auld Mug’.
Since it was first held in 1851, off the coast of the Isle of Wight in England, the America’s Cup has attracted the world’s wealthiest people, and as a result, the event has always has been at the forefront of sailing technology.
After the past two editions were held in hugely costly giant foiling catamarans, the 2021 America’s Cup will see 75-feet long foiling monohull yachts take to the waters off the coast of Auckland.
These boats, called AC75s, will be capable of lifting themselves out of the water, which reduces drag and allows the yachts to reach speeds of up to 50 knots (57-miles-per-hour).
DutchSail only entered the America’s Cup in November, and with the team still in the funding stages, Brouwer is well aware of her squad lagging its rivals: Italy’s Luna Rossa, US entries American Magic and Stars & Stripes Team USA, Malta Altus Challenge and Ben Ainslie’s INEOS Team UK, which is funded by petrochemicals billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, Britain’s wealthiest man.
US challenger American Magic and Ainslie’s INEOS team have already been testing their scaled down foiling monohulls for months.
Team New Zealand plans to start testing its own boat in June, following months of preparation in its cutting-edge, Formula One-inspired virtual sailing simulator, which the squad also used in the run-up to their 2017 victory.
Although DutchSail is starting from behind, Brouwer pointed to her country’s strong sailing expertise and high-tech maritime industry as reasons for the team being a contender.
“We are the best boat builders in the world,” she said.
Provided it will be able to raise the necessary funds, DutchSail plans to buy New Zealand’s AC75 boat design and simulator package, and train on dry land in a sailing simulator, Brouwer said.
“The boat will be built in the Netherlands, and realistically speaking, it won’t be ready before next year February or March,” said Brouwer. “But in the mean time, you have to make your hours, do your training. And that’s what we’ll be doing in these simulators. We have a lot knowledge about this in the Netherlands.”
DutchSail plans to take part in the 2020 World Series, before the team moves to New Zealand in the fall of that year to get ready for the big event.
DutchSail is currently looking to add 12 or 13 sailors to fill eight spots on the boat for grinders.
“It is an incredibly physical job,” Brouwer said.
“I hope Simeon [Tienpont] will join us one of the grinders, he definitely has those qualities,” she said. “And we are talking to lots of potential candidates. We will hold selection rounds in April for the specific positions, when hopefully the simulator will be up and running, which will be a great way to test them.”
Inspired by New Zealand
The Netherlands wouldn’t have entered its first America’s Cup if it wasn’t for New Zealand, which won the 2017 edition on a relatively modest budget against much wealthier rivals, according to Brouwer.
“They are the reason we are taking part,” she said. “For us, they are an example of how to do things right. Just like us, the New Zealand team didn’t have a billionaire backer, who can put money on the table when it is needed.”
Without a wealthy backer, it is crucial for the team “to get the Dutch population behind us,” Brouwer said. “You want to get the support of the government and business world, so they can work together to make the Dutch bid a successful one.”