AmericaOne New Zealand Chronicles:
Lord of the Underworld
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by Larry Edwards, Quokka Sports
Friday, January 28, 2000-
To his teammates, Bill Bates is known as "lord of the underworld." Not because he's the sewerman for AmericaOne, but because of the hellish fitness regime he imposes on the AmericaOne crew. He's in charge of the team's physical training.
But in today's come-from-behind win over Prada, Bates was lord of the underworld aboard the San Francisco team's boat. As a member of the foredeck crew, the 36-year-old native of Sydney, Australia, spends a good deal of time below deck packing sails in what is commonly known as the sewer.
Working in his hot, damp cell, Bates had to get a replacement spinnaker ready to go even before the one being hoisted had filled.
It was a press ure-cooker situation. After trailing Prada's Luna Rossa by almost two minutes, AmericaOne had crawled back into the race and was just 18 seconds behind at the second weather mark. Only three boat lengths separated the pair. AmericaOne had a very real chance to take the lead and even the score at 1-1.
But as the 5,000 square foot lime-green asymmetrical spinnaker was hoisted, it tore and was likely to shred to pieces at any moment. If the damaged "chute" wasn't immediately replaced, AmericaOne's big gain could quickly evaporate.
"As soon as I saw it tear, it was a matter of going straight below and getting our backup chute out, which usually comes up after the headsail is dropped," Bates said. "But we had a couple more guys come up on the foredeck, and I was able to get the chute out and hooked up straight away."
Compounding the problem was the fact that, because of a large wind shift, AmericaOne's course led straight into the spectator fleet. Skipper Paul Cayard may have had to gybe to avoid a collision. But if he gybed, Bates said, the spinnaker would have blown out for sure.
However, there was no panic aboard AmericaOne. Cayard was heard saying, "We need to get another chute up, guys," in a tone as matter-of-fact as if it were just a routine practice manoeuvre.
Bates attributes the calm but efficient handling of the emergency to the crew's training -- its physical training. His team mates may chide him about being the "lord of the underworld," but he wears the badge with pride.
"It's a mental discipline as well as physical," he said. "We've got to be as fit as we can be, but mentally the discipline is very important in terms of sailing the boat well.
"Today is a classic example," he continued. "We were a long way behind. We had to be disciplined to hang tough and wait for an opportunity to catch up."
Nor was the mood on the boat fatalistic when the spinnaker tore and disaster stared AmericaOne in the face.
"When something like that does happen, hopefully it goes as smoothly as possible," Bates added. "Sometimes it's a nightmare, but today the transition went well, and that's part of that mental discipline."
Handling an emergency like today's is child's play for Bates.
"It was no big deal to us, it's what we've been training all these months for," he said.
It was no big deal, because he's been in worse situations. Much worse. Bates was in the sewer packing a chute aboard the ill-fated oneAustralia when the boat began sinking off San Diego in the 1995 challenger series, and was lucky to get out alive.
His AmericaOne team mates are mighty glad he survived to sail his fourth Cup campaign.
"He's the best in the world," said strategist Gavin Brady.
"That job down there is incredibly hard," Brady explained. "It's like a washing machine, and he's down there getting knocked around with Violet."
Violet? Indeed. Bates doesn't work alone. His cellmate is a life-size transfer -- designed for application to a surfboard -- of a curvaceous young woman.
Violet began service aboard USA-49, but was much smaller and on deck. She became the crew's lucky charm. Then grinder Jim Nicholas obtained the larger one.
"We got our new boat and Jim came back with this one, which is even better," Bates said with a grin. "She's very important to us, and she smartens up the sewer pretty well."
If she could talk, she'd probably say the same about the six-foot-tall fitness freak she rooms with. The lord and lady of the underworld -- bringing success and good luck to AmericaOne. So far, they've made a great team.
For full story go to: www.americascup.org
For additional information on AmericaOne, contact:
Gina von Esmarch
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