Oracle Team USA boat captain honored
AMSTERDAM _ Simeon Tienpont has been named the Netherlands’ top sailor of 2013 for his role in Oracle Team USA’s stunning, come-from-behind America’s Cup victory. As boat captain and project leader, Tienpont (at right, in photo) liaised between the AC team, designers and builders. He also developed the boat’s foils system and worked as a grinder during the final in San Francisco Bay.
At a late-November ceremony at the National Maritime Museum, he won the Connie van Rietschoten award, an annual prize for Dutch sailors named after the Dutch industrialist who win the Whitbread Round The World, the Volvo Ocean Race precursor, twice.
Tienpont served on ABN-AMRO-II in the 2005-06 VOR and has done 7 AC campaigns. In 2007 he was on Russell Coutts’ BMW Oracle that won the 2007 AC. His background as a maritime engineer and an economist, served him well in processing the vast amount of data required to build the AC cat, tune it and keep it sailing. In an interview with the boating monthly De Waterkampioen, Tienpont spoke about how it feels to sail a wingsail cat.
“It’s the world’s coolest boat,” he told the magazine. “It is unreal how, in pre-start situations or in a bear-away you shoot from 5 to 38 knots in a matter of seconds. When you do 30kn close hauled in 20-knot winds, it’s like getting a Force 10 across your deck. In team discussions we actually talked about keeping the minimum speed during gybing under 31 knots!” From the outset, Oracle Team USA did well on broad reaches, but it came about too slowly. Close-hauled, it faltered. “We discovered our foils were too far aft to be able to fly fast…We got onto that with a vengeance,” Tienpont told De Waterkampioen. Tinkering with the wing flap resulted in less power but greater balance. That helped. So did Britain’s Ben Ainslee who came on board mid-race as skipper. “Ainslee has an incredible eye for decisive situations,” says Tienpont, who lives in Amsterdam and Spain.
He sees a great AC future. For the 2013 race, “a lot of the development costs focused on the flying.” With those development costs done and dusted, Tienpont sees more AC races in “72 ft. cats, but perhaps with a slightly smaller wing. And T-foils instead of L-shaped ones for more stability.”