Saturday, January 28, 2012

Grunter Gives Shogun V Some Glitter Against Georgia at Festival Of Sails in Geelong

Several high profile America's Cup sailors are racing at the Festival of Sails this week. Kiwi America’s Cup hero, Chris Dickson, is onboard Georgia while Aussie Grant 'Grunter' Simmer, the ex MD and design coordinator of Alinghi is the tactician for Shogun V.
Grant Simmer Photo: Teri Dodds/Festival Of Sails
“It’s my first regatta here and I am amazed at the number of people and boats. It’s an organisational feat to run so many fleets concurrently,” Simmer said.

“The sailing waters are great and running it from a mid-size town means everyone’s together. Socially it works, as well as on the water,” he added just before leaving the dock.
Chris Dickson Photo: Teri Dodds/Festival Of Sails
On his nemesis, Chris Dickson, who has the same role as tactician on an opposing boat and the current clubhouse leader, Jim Famer’s Georgia, there is a great respect. “Georgia has improved a lot and is going to be hard to beat, particularly if it stays light. Dickson is very impressive”.

Simmer is back home in Australia after over a decade living in Europe. The highly respected yachtsman is racing with a number of crews including Shogun V for the Festival of Sails and super maxi Wild Oats XI in last year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart.

He’s seen plenty of talent among the high-end IRC fleet this week and is buoyed by the Australian Sailing Team’s dominance along the trail to this year’s London Olympic Games.

“I’ve been working in the sport from a management side and haven’t had the opportunity to do much sailing. I’m enjoying it. There is a whole new generation of sailors in this country in their early to mid-20s who are bloody good.

“The AST team are obviously at the top of their sport and they have huge careers ahead of them. I just hope they can finish the job at the Olympics.”

In particular Simmer cites America’s Cup skipper and helmsman James Spithill’s decision to bring multiple world Laser champion and AST squad member, Tom Slingsby, into the Oracle Racing fold. “It’s a good decision by James and a great opportunity for Tom.”

Being a professional sailor is by no means a typical career move and is a hard concept for grasp for the office-bound. For the cream who do rise to the very top of the sport, it’s hard work but there are obvious benefits.

So how does a rock star switch modes when sailing with different grand prix crews?

“Sometimes it’s difficult getting on and off different boats. I just let people do what they are good at and encourage them to speak up. You don’t want people clamming up because someone with a reputation has stepped on the boat,” Simmer added.

Shogun V has today and tomorrow to claw Georgia and Calm back in the Division A pointscore, then his focus will switch to Etchells and the class’ upcoming nationals and worlds on Pittwater in Sydney
Simmer is one of the guest speakers at tomorrow’s official presentation breakfast at The Pier for those divisions finishing their competition today.

Lisa Ratcliff

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