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For when inclusion is not just a byword

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail World AUS 18 Dec 2022 21:00 GMT
Andoo Comanche - 2022 Cabbage Tree Island Race © Andrea Francolini

There is no doubt that this is my overarching sentiment regarding andoo Comanche. From back on August 1 with Beginning a Winning to now, I have been afforded all that I could want. The generosity of time, effort, and amenity shown to me is endemic throughout the campaign, and the sailors have reflected this in their performances to date. Every post a winner, and all...

Obviously there's no splash without cash, no matter whether you're talking dinghy or supermaxi. andoo Comanche is a billboard, for sure, and the Winning Group have had a blimp and V8 Supercar as their figurehead for marketing previously, but a craft like the VPLP/Verdier penned beast is a bit different. This time, the direct hands-on nature has affected some changes to the way she has been campaigned, and most notably she has raced well in conditions hitherto thought of as unwinnable.

Now andoo is 'The home of feel-good living. (Furniture, mattresses, appliances and more)', but I have to say this esprit de corps is not only imbued into the team, it exudes from it. Perhaps this is why you often hear the words, 'The Winning Way'.

Sam Fay from the Winning Group added, "Yes. The heart of this campaign is a sponsorship to promote our new e-commerce business. Large, above the line marketing activations is something people are used to with the Winning Group. It was interesting only a few weeks ago when someone asked me whether we still had the blimp, because they thought they'd seen it in the air. We haven't had for seven years now! This is the sort of longevity that we're hoping to create with this program. andoo also marks the Winning Group's first foray into business in New Zealand."

You would expect that John 'Herman' Winning, the CEO, is delighted to see the plan coming off so well so far. Fay, who was integral to securing Comanche in the first place said, "Yes. Absolutely. It's an audacious program, that's for sure, and we're not doing it to come second. We're happy with the results so far, and long may they continue."

Well it is not all about the supermaxi, either. The Winning Group is still exceptionally active inside the iconic 18-foot skiffs. A little over a week ago, John 'Woody' Winning won a race from gun to gun, and he is 70 years of age. He is one of the most measured men I have come across in ages, and to be still clambering across a skiff at this level almost beggars belief. His incredible skills will certainly be an asset on the trip to Hobart in the big boat.

Iain Murray AM, is the Sailing Master on andoo Comanche, but also intrinsically involved in the 18s campaigns for the Winnings, which you'd be mad not to use given he has six J.J. Giltinan titles under his own belt. Reflecting on how well both Herman and Woody are doing in their 18s Murray said, "Let's just say the way Woody is sailing the 18 at his age is the eighth wonder of the world, and he has stepped it up again this year. He earned that win last Sunday with an exceptionally clean, no mistake, sailing day."

"Given the replacement surgeries etc, it is just remarkable that he has the physicality to sail these boats. Yes he has a couple of young, talented crew on board, but his sense of angle of heel, vision and how to instinctively sail these boats is not lost. The experience he's gained over a very long period of time is there in his back pocket the whole time, allowing him to sail the boat in an accurate and effective way to extract high performance from it. And you know, I'm sure there's lots of young guys in the park that are just sort. Incredibly skilful young guys want to sail with him, which is testament to the fact that they're learning from him."

"Herman, on the other hand, is only just back in the skiff. He hasn't sailed it for a couple of years because of business commitments. It's interesting to watch him come back, and I think be enthused by the small boat. Herman has always been a great sailor, and it is almost a recalibration of him. Time on the water, whether it's the big or little boat is allowing him to apply his skills, and seeing him do it in a non-rusty way is a real delight."

"He's sailing better now than I've seen him sail a long period of time. Herman's managed to allocate the time between his variety of interests, and prioritise the sailing and its delivering results for him."

In other sports, like say rowing, using the smaller pairs or single and double sculls, is always part of a campaign for the bigger, faster boat, which is the blue ribbon eights. So was it always part of the andoo Comanche programme to involve the small boats where you're constantly honing those skills, or did it just worked out that way by default? It probably happened that way more than anything, for securing the big boat was not part of some 'meticulous plan', as they call it, but rather seizing on an opportunity that arose and was secured by the 'fast-twitch muscle actions' of Herman.

For many, arguably not those from within the camp, the most obvious question is the coveted Line Honours record. Obviously, you need the right weather system(s) to do it, but how does the team deal with it? "I think that if the record comes, it comes, but certainly the discussion is more about extracting the performance and sailing the boat to its highest possible ability at all times."

"The more you get to know Herman, the more you understand that he's all about the performance of people, the management of people, and this all stems from the fact that he has tools and systems in his own business to monitor, understand, and help people, in order to get the best out of their performance. He's now applied all of this to his sailing, and it's all about performance, and it is not about the records. They will come if the time is right, and the plan, set up, execution and performance is there", said Murray.

So wetted surface area would historically have been seen as andoo Comanche's Achilles Heel. Not so now under the new stewardship. Effectively, each time she has ventured out it is a win, irrespective of the weather, even doing exceptionally well in the light, a time when you think she might park. Naturally, you're not going to extract too much out of the play book here, but as we said, inclusion is all part of the deal, and here's what has been said.

"I think the boat's still is not as good as the skinny boats in under eight knots of wind. I don't think that's to be disputed, but what we've worked hard on is to minimise the damage under those conditions. When we start going under nine knots of boat speed, and relative to wetted surface area and heel, you see what we've done with cleaning the boat, maximising the potential, and working on ways to get heel. Mostly you'll see this with our bow down attitude, and minimising the grip of the water."

Murray added, "Minimising is also about making sure that our race planning and routing etc is done to make sure that we don't take a shortcut to get any shorter distance at the sacrifice of utilising the prevailing wind." Did someone say Hobart via New Zealand, Mr. Honey?

"We have to keep the boat going at over nine knots, and so it's always, from the mental point of view, in the back of our minds. We're always looking over the stern for the stern immersion, and it's a very big part of sailing this boat that. We have to keep it rocking at all times." Back at the beginning, their routing for the win in the Gold Coast race showed this plan being executed brilliantly, and it has not stopped thenceforth.

On board andoo Comanche there is a mix of young guns and old salts, and we have seen that there is a corporate style approach to human resource management, but a quiet boat, with deliberate and measured crew work is a distinct part of the mix too.

"Every boat has its own sort of way, and certainly the Winning way is that we want a mixture of people on board from young people to experienced people, and at times we have had Jamie Winning (Herman's sister) and other women along for a few of the races. Herman wants to mix it up, but the overriding factor is that the crew have to be harmonious, fit together, and have fun."

"We've been through a learning experience, with Southport, Hamilton Island and so on, mixing a whole lot of people who have come from a whole different parts of the world. We've had them all in the big pot simmering away, helping and learning with each other to the point where I think we've got a good crew now. It's probably been a little bit of an eye-opener for some people to see the boat's going out and being sailed well, with the crew manoeuvres, sail selection, and execution of sail changes, has been really high quality."

"Herman looks after the people, treats people with respect and equality. This is what has gone a long way establishing that we are going to do it the Winning way, as opposed to the European way, the American way, the Australian way, youth way, or crocodile way", said Murray letting some of that famous humour get exposed for a second.

It is probably a very apt time to also highlight how much andoo Comanche has done in terms of youth sailing, twilights, and engagement with the sailing community in general, to bring a smile to everyone's face, including those they have simply blasted by on a training session.

What does the final week ahead of the race look like for andoo Comanche? "We've had a really solid session last week, putting boat and crew through some hard paces, no holes barred, going up and down through the rig, changing sails, ripping along for extended periods of time, and dealing with pretty tough sea states, to just make sure the boat is solid and that we have confidence to do what we need to do with the boat. The crew have seen the boat and they have confidence that they can go about doing their jobs on the boat to make the performance of this boat what it should be."

"So where we're at now is we're 'polishing' the boat, really, doing things like changing the engine oil, fixing the sail bags, doing all the little jobs the big jobs, because the sail selections, crew selections, boat preparation, and maintenance has been a really big, long slog over the last six months."

One cannot help but reflect back on the boat's first appearance in 2014. Murray was then on Wild Oats XI, and the commentary from Mark Richards saying, 'Hey, Big Fella. Look at that thing go!' is still in many a sailor's mind. So if it is indeed Murray's turn to rocket out the Harbour in four and half minutes, what will he be thinking? "I think we all lived in awe of this boat when it first turned up, and what it did off the start back then."

"The boat has been modified substantially in the intervening time, and it is more of an all round boat than it was back in those days. It's had a lot of smart people involved with it over time, and it was a beautifully designed, engineered and built product to begin with. It's been a tremendous platform for really dominating a hundred-foot racing and setting records all over the world. We are just very fortunate to have the boat under the andoo Comanche banner, and setting our sights and spans high to provide this boat with what it deserves is our mantra."

Highlighting that in order to finish first, first you have to finish, Murray then added, "I'm not too concerned about the four and a half minutes. What would be nice for us is to win the race, and it would be a nice feather in the cap for this campaign if the Line Honours record can come to pass."

As usual, our coverage of the race will be full and comprehensive from our extended team, including Crosbie and Dale Lorimer. Look out for live streams on the home page, including 1205hrs from the 27th onwards.

OK. There it is. There is so much more on the group's sites for you. Simply use the search field, or 'edition' pull-down menu up the top on the right of the masthead to find it all. Please enjoy your yachting, stay safe, and thanks for tuning into Sail-World.com

John Curnow
Editor, Sail World AUS

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