On the water at warp speed, there's no time for bullshit. It's too fast, too loud, too frightening to get caught up in bluster. At this level, it's only a couple of cues or prompts between crewmates. A hand signal here or there. And when you get off the water, you cut straight to the chase too.
And so you find Nathan Outteridge near the end of a long table for a flashy launch of the high stakes SailGP series, pitched to "redefine sailing".
Need for speed: Australia’s SailGP team getting to grips with their boat off the coast of Northland, New Zealand.Credit:SailGP
He's an Australian Olympic gold medallist who has stood on the dais belting out the words to Advance Australia Fair. He doesn't give a hoot about those words for the next two days. In this revolutionary worldwide series involving six nations and a $1 million winner-takes-all match race at the end of the year, he's Japan's helm. Outteridge, from the Central Coast, only cares about what the boat in red and white does in his home country.
The whisper around leafy Kirribilli has been the Japanese will be the team to beat in the two-day Sydney leg, set to take place at the foot of the Opera House. In that case, they will sing – maybe stumble – the national anthem out on Saturday evening at the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron.
Ready for action: Australia’s Nathan Outteridge will skipper the Japan team in the new SailGP series.Credit:AP
"I can't say I know any of the words," laughs Outteridge. "If it looks like we're going to win I'm going to have to get the boys to teach me a couple of phrases."
He goes on to say it doesn't quite feel the same wearing the Japanese colours compared to the green and gold. Again, no bullshit. But it's also exactly why SailGP works, the sport's bold play set to test many an ego.
The six supercharged F50 catamarans have been developed to be identical for sailing's Formula One on water. They're expected to reach speeds of close to 100km/h under the right conditions. There's no back-up boats, few spare parts. Just sailor on sailor and who can chart a passage through the magic harbour better than the others.
"It makes it more of a man-on-man contest," Outteridge says. "Take the America's Cup, it's all about technology and equipment development and guessing what the other guys are doing and trying to do something better. The guess work is now gone.
"You can't blame a designer, you can't blame a shore team or anything like that. I think that's what's really cool about this format, it's sailors against sailors."
The reason Outteridge has signed up to skipper the Japanese crew – which must be made up of 40 per cent natives in SailGP's first year and increase that by 20 per cent each year after – is because of a man who told him to go win a gold medal at London.
Tom Slingsby won Australia's first sailing gold of the 2012 Games and then urged Outteridge and childhood friend Iain Jensen to do the same a couple of days later. Slingsby won the race to be Australia's helm for SailGP. The mates didn't mind mocking each other in the lead-up to the Sydney leg, which begins on Friday afternoon.
Asked about seeing his fellow Olympic champion wearing the Japanese colours, Slingsby joked: "It actually makes me very happy because it means I got the nod for the Australian team over him. I'm sure it's a little bit contentious for him, but we've been great mates since we were five years old.
"We've grown up racing each other and it's an honour I got asked over Nathan to lead the Australian team. There's only one skipper that can be for Australia. It's our team against their team and I break it down even more than that, it's myself against these other skippers. I want to do a better job than he does. I want our team to beat his team. I love that aspect."
SailGP, the brainchild of Oracle founder Larry Ellison and America's Cup legend Sir Russell Coutts, insist its broadcast and information sharing will be cutting edge. It's ripped the cloak and dagger aspect out of the sport.
Information from the 1200 data and sensor points on each F50 will be relayed to fans almost instantly. Each night, crews can study what functions their rivals were using in any given race through the data and adapt.
And then there's the prospect of carnage on the water at such high speeds. Who blinks first?
"I can assure you all six of us are sitting here packing ourselves a bit not knowing what to expect," said Chinese helm Phil Robertson, a New Zealand native with other boats to carry the colours of France, Great Britain and the United States. "That's the beauty of the series, there's no spare boats and limited spare parts. If we have a crash we're out. It's as simple as that."
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