Up at the pointy ends

Former Groupama crewman Jan Dekker discusses the bowman's role on Alinghi 5
When word came through from the New York Supreme Court that the 33rd America’s Cup would be a Deed of Gift affair in multihulls, the only person with experience of the French ORMA trimaran circuit on the Alinghi sailing team was their French/South African bowman, Jan Dekker. While prior to his joining Alinghi in 2006, Dekker was best known for his three fully crewed round the world laps of the planet on the Volvo Ocean Race with Silk Cut, Tyco and ultimately winning in 2005-6 with Mike Sanderson aboard ABN AMRO One, from the late 1990s Dekker was a regular on the French 60ft trimaran circuit racing with the likes of Marc Guillemot on Biscuits la Trinitaine, with Fred le Peutrec on Bayer CropSciences and eventually with Franck Cammas on Groupama 2. Understandably Dekker has remained on with Alinghi where he continues to share bow duties on board with Piet van Nieuwenhuijzen and mid-bowman Curtis Blewett. The bowman’s job on board Alinghi 5 is quite different to that on the previous Version 5 monohulls. In comparision for example there are very few sails on board - possibly as little as four come race day. This is for reasons of weight, but also because sail changes and moving sails around is agonisingly slow simply due to their sheer size. "That is good, but that is the way it is on a fairly short race - two hours on a multihull - you definitely don’t want to be changing sails," says Dekker. "You may have to do one or two - but preferably none. If you could go around the course with the same sails the whole way round there are definitely big gains to be had.” The question comes down to one of maths: Will being downspeed for a few minutes, as