Carlo Huisman (25) grinder for Emirates Team America’s Cup

My name is Carlo Huisman, I’m 25 years old and I am a grinder for Emirates Team New Zealand.

How, where and when did you start sailing?
I started sailing when I was around 6 years old on the Friesche meren. My dad used to take my older brother and me for sailing trips on platbodems and in combination with some sailing camps during the summer I learned how to sail. At first I didn’t really like it to much, it used to be very windy and I never felt like I had a lot of control over what was going on.
When I was about 11 I started to get more competitive and by the time I was 16 my brother and I were training in a 470 and competing on a national level. That ended almost as quickly as it began, because we weren’t doing very well and other ambitions got in the way.

Luckily my neighbor at the time, Nic Bol, invited me to join a short offshore race called the Vuurschepen Race. Thats when I really started enjoying sailing on another level and began to sail exclusively yachts.
I have been very lucky, meeting several people during my 20’s that have been able to bring me to another level of sailing every season. Thats one of those cliches that just was very true in my case: always surround yourself with people that are better then you. I think I’ve done that quite well and am obviously still doing that right now.

Are you the youngest sailor in the AC and do you think you have to proof yourself more because of your age?
I’m not sure that I am the youngest sailor in the AC, I believe I am the youngest on this team even though Peter Burling our helmsman is 25 years old as well. We have a great group of young sailors on the team now, all under 30 which is great for the future of the team and also shows how demanding it is, racing these yachts. I don’t feel like I have to prove myself any more then the others, our whole team is very competitive amongst us, so there is always that drive to push yourself hard.

How does it feel to experience speeds up to 50 knots on the AC catamarans?
The whole experience has been unreal. When I first joined the team early 2016, I had no idea what to expect. Sailing firstvastleggen-in-volledig-scherm-4-10-2016-002041 on the Luna Rossa 45F was already a great experience. Now that we have our own boat its pretty amazing how far we can push it.
Sitting in the water both hulls in and popping it up onto its foils is great, your going from 0 to 30+ in seconds.

When you’ re foiling around at those speeds, it feels pretty solid and locked in. But I still try to hold on a little better and look for debree in the water. I wouldn’t want to be caught off guard, when we have a nose dive at those speeds. When I have time to look around, its good to enjoy what your actually doing for a moment.

Sitting in the water both hulls in and popping it up onto its foils is great, your going from 0 to 30+ in seconds

Does the speed and sailing on a AC45 catamaran still give you an adrenaline boost?
Of course, going out on a boat like that, with a team of the greatest sailors I could think off, always gives me a thrill. The whole team, from boat builder, designer to sailing team member has the same goal. That team effort makes you want to go hard and give it all you’ ve got as well. On the water the acceleration of the boat is impressive and at times very intimating. You really have to be switched on, in order to sail the boat well and avoid mistakes.

Can you tell me something about the safety gear on board?
Right now we are still developing our safety gear, I think we will be running those new sets very soon. At the moment we wear a combination of a life/impact vest and a helmet as well. There is a small tank of spare air for the sailors which is very easy to reach for the grinders. On board the chase boats there are always 2 divers that have extensive medical training.

We also have our other grinders geared up and on standby, so they could always help out. Besides that there are a couple of guys with 4 or more cups under their belt so they have the proper knowledge and experience to overcome most situations.

Did you ever experience any fear sailing the boat?
I have not yet raced this boat or experienced any fear. Even though during training and testing it will at times feel quite unstable. You know you are sailing with a really good group of guys and there is always the chase boat.

We are all pretty confident in the way we work on the boat. You just have to make sure you push at the right time and get the timing right. At times especially during high speeds I’ll just make sure I am well aware of how the boat is moving and what is coming up. Everyone on the boat is wearing comms so we can communicate very well, which is a very important part of our sailing program.

Do you have a special way to train your hand and eye coördination?
We spend a lot of time in the gym and on the boat. This helps to build  the confidence you need to work, jump and run around on the boat at higher speeds. Our trainer makes us work through several dynamic training sessions a week, which helps in tracking what is going on visually and translating that into a controlled movement. But I wouldn’t necessarily say we train in a “special” way we just aim to be very fit and rely on our experience.

With six sailors on board you really have to depend on each other 100%: how do you experience that?
We now have a group of about 10-15 sailors. It creates a very special group dynamic of wanting to push the boat hard and relying on each other to provide the necessary input whether it be power, feedback or knowledge to make the boat go faster. Being able to translate a feeling you get from the boat into a question the designers can work with, is a very important aspect.
My role is all about delivering power. The guys in the back need a lot of it, so they are depending on the grinders to go hard, but also speak up when something doesn’t feel right or its simply to hard. Its great to know your sailing with some of the best sailors because there is no hesitation in trusting each other. At times we have some friendly competition going on, but in general there is a great sense of team effort towards the same goal: winning the America’s Cup.

Im sure Simeon has a group of legends lined up to sail around the world with him. But if he doesn’t he can always contact me, I would certainly love joining his campaign

How does it feel to sail on a AC45 catamaran comparing to a mono hull?
Faster, the speed difference is massive, foiling upwind at over 20kts feels incredible and is not something I will getvastleggen-in-volledig-scherm-4-10-2016-001914 used to quickly. A mono hull can sometimes feel a little “cruisy” but this is really another machine, the tramp and running across makes it very dynamic as well, which is nice.

The thing that makes it all very simple compared to racing a mono hull is, that you are never really holding a rope or hoisting a sail. Im just grinding for power and boards go up and down and thats it. Going around a top mark or doing a bear away has never been so simple, that used to be the moment were I would work the hardest.

In my last year of racing I was sailing with Bas de Voogd’s Coincoin and Nico Poons RC44 Charisma. Even though I had some great racing with those teams, its not comparable to what I am doing now. Its just very different, but I wouldn’t say better or worse. I still had some of my best yachting on mono hulls. I guess that when I will get back to mono hulls, it will feel a little slow in the beginning.

What’s next for you, joining Simeon Tienpont in the Volvo Ocean Race?
Ha , I wish! No, to be fair I think its very exciting that he dropped sailing for Team Japan to go out and start his own Volvo campaign; go Simeon! But I don’t see my AC agenda lining up to well with a Volvo edition. For now Emirates Team New Zealand gets my attention 100% and I don’t want something else to distract me.
I’m sure Simeon has a group of legends lined up to sail around the world with him. But if he doesn’t he can always contact me, I would certainly love joining his campaign. So in short I don’t want to rule anything out, but I’m sure that after winning the Cup I’ll take a short vacation before I get into anything else.

Saskia Poelman