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Q&A with INEOS TEAM UK's David 'Freddie' Carr

by Mark Jardine 21 Jan 09:00 UTC
INEOS TEAM UK's David 'Freddie' Carr © Harry KH / INEOS TEAM UK

Freddie is one of the more experienced members of the INEOS TEAM UK sailing team, having comped in four previous America's Cup campaigns going back to 2007. Having come through the ranks of the RYA Youth Programme, he has a fine record in dinghy sailing as well as being on the winning team in the 2009 Extreme Sailing Series.

As a Grinder on Britannia, Freddie provides the power needed to sail an AC75. He's taken part in many fitness-based challenges over the years including four marathons and finishing 9th at the 2015 British Rowing Indoor Championship - the highest placed competitor outside of the GB Rowing Team.

Q: What were your impressions when you first sailed the AC75 Britannia?

DC: Just how powerful it was. We've come from sailing smaller catamarans where the loads are not as big so the overriding sense of sailing the boat is you are back on a yacht with big loads, with mainsheet loads north of 10 tonnes, with jibsheet loads around five tonnes. So, you are very used to doing loaded grinding again. I guess we have become a bit nonchalant with the speed now, particularly in BRITANNIA as we are tucked out of the wind a lot you do not have much connection with the boat, other than the data you are seeing on your screens. First impressions were you are sailing on a yacht again and then secondly, you peep your head over the side and see that you are doing 50mph again. It's a bit of a funny mix really.

Q: With so much training and development going into an America's Cup campaign, how does it feel to now be finally competing?

DC: With the global pandemic as a team we have not really raced together much over the past three years, so to actually get the group of sixteen sailors going through a race period together, and then on top of that how we are interacting with the shore crew and the design crew trying to get the boat faster everyday, we are learning a lot. It's so far so good. We learnt a lot through the America's Cup World Series, took our lessons from that and I believe our race day programme and attitude has got better because of the learnings before Christmas. I think we are working really well as a sailing team right now.

Q: The AC75 is an incredibly physical boat, which you refer to as 'The Beast'. How has training compared to what you have done previously?

DC: The training, to be honest, is very similar to how we sailed the AC50s in Bermuda in 2017. What I would say is that these boats, because you are buried within a grinding squad of 6, not within a grinding squad of 4, you can manage your energy a little bit better around the racecourse. If you personally ran out of energy in Bermuda four years ago, the boat performance really took a nosedive. Whereas on this boat you can pace yourself a bit better and know that more people have got your back.

The training itself is super important, we are now endurance athletes. I guess we are now not only three years into that journey, but we are six years into that journey, of being performance athletes. Our numbers, our wattages, that we live off by our training, have got better because of that.

Q: The demands you put on the sailing clothing are extreme, requiring warmth below, in-between and after sailing, breathability during races and flexibility to carry out your role on the boat. How have the Henri-Lloyd team delivered for you?

DC: The sailing kit for us is everything. If you are uncomfortable out there in the conditions you are just not going to perform. We are sailing in 25 plus degrees of heat in a black trench with no airflow, so for us to have kit that we can be close to max heart rate in, be comfortable in, be super sweaty in, and the kit not be an annoyance is fantastic. Then as soon as we finish the racing and we are relaxing and calming down on the tow back in, when the wind chill is quite high, to chuck on all the relevant kit [such as the warm up jacket] to keep you primed and warm and ready to hit the dock in good shape is equally as important. We are super stoked with our kit and it's one of those things we don't even have to think about, it just works perfectly because that's what Henri-Lloyd have delivered for us.

Q: There are highs and lows to any campaign. How do you deal with the euphoria and disappointment along the way as a team?

DC: We have seen them both in the last six weeks. We underperformed in the America's Cup World Series and we have just finished our first weekend of Round Robin racing and have had a good weekend. I would say we have kept it on a level between the low before Christmas and now the high after Christmas. The one thing that is nice is we have recognised how badly it can go as a team and we kept our chins up and kept plodding away. We also allowed ourselves after that first Sunday of the PRADA Cup to enjoy that half hour. You have to celebrate your good days. You have to acknowledge when it is going well and have a half hour where you pat yourselves on that back but remain mindful that there is a long, long way to go. It's about keeping it level.

Q: You've come through the ranks of local youth sailing, through to competing for the pinnacle trophy in our sport. What advice would you give to aspiring sailors who may want to follow your path?

DC: The big thing for me was not getting stereotyped into one kind of sailing category. I did a lot of dinghy sailing as a kid, I then realised I wanted to learn how to crew properly so I'd go and do a lot of crewing on lots of dinghies. Then I realised I could add to my skill base by sailing small keel boats and then big keel boats and then tried to do lots of different positions on the keel boats that I was sailing, whilst maintaining my sailing skill level in dinghy. So, I was trying to become a jack of all trades. I think it is a bit risky if you want to get to the top of the sport to specialise early. You don't want to be a teenager specialising in a particular type of sailing. Just make sure while you are growing up that you sail lots of different boats, sail in lots of positions and have a really broad understanding of the sport and what makes a boat go fast.

Q: To date, what has been your favourite moment sailing?

DC: My favourite moment sailing was probably in the last America's Cup cycle when we held the World Series event in Portsmouth and 20,000 people came down on Super Sunday to watch us sail. I wasn't just proud that we won that event and we sailed extremely well but that moment for me was celebrating where sailing has got to as a whole. The fact that 20,000 people came down to Portsmouth seafront to watch a sailing regatta is a real mark of where the sport has got to over the last 10 years. I was incredibly proud of winning that event but I was also incredibly proud of where the sport was going at that time and I think it's stepping on again as we speak.

Show your support for the team with the Official Henri-Lloyd INEOS TEAM UK merchandise collection, including key on and off-shore items that the team wear during their day-to-day America's Cup duties.

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