Grant “Fuzz” Spanhake is one of the most respected coaches in the world of sailboat racing. The Annapolis-based professional has worked with the highest level professionals competing on the TP52 circuit and with the Olympic teams of several countries. Now participants in the 2017 SAP 5O5World Championship will benefit from Spanhake’s expertise.
North Sails Gulf Coast will sponsor two post-racing debriefs by Spanhake during the SAP 5O5 World Championship, being held Sept. 24 through 29 on the Chesapeake Bay. Spanhake will deliver his debriefs on Tuesday, Sept. 26 and Thursday, Sept. 28 in the SAP Sailor’s Lounge that is located on the back lawn of Eastport Yacht Club.
Spanhake, a veteran of multiple America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race campaigns, will diagnose the tactics and strategy for each day’s racing using the SAP Sailing Analytics and services provided by Sail Tracks. He will also provide insight on such topics as rig setup and tune, sail trim and course management.
“We’ll take a close look at the day’s racing and talk about who is doing welland why,” Spanhake said. “We’ll take some photographs of boats that are set up well and some that aren’t then talk about the differences.”
Spanhake served as technical director for the United States Olympic Team during the four-year cycle leading up to the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He was responsible for setting up the American boats in 10 Olympic classes and making any necessary changes based off performance.
Spanhake is a veteran of national Olympic programs, having worked for Greece in 2004 and Great Britain in 2008 and 2012. Another highlight of the New Zealand native’s long, distinguished career came in 1992 when he served as head coach of the sailing team for America3, the U.S. syndicate headed by Bill Koch that successfully defended the America's Cup.
Spanhake likened the 5O5 dinghy to the 470 in terms of technical elements and performance. In both classes, it’s imperative for sailors to set up the boat properly for the conditions. During the SAP 5O5 World Championship, Spanhake will employ a technique he has used with great success in the past of interviewing skippers and crew from the top boats to learn what they are doing in terms of rig tune and tactics on the race course.
“It’s all about boat speed and the goal of these debriefs is to help improve everyone’s performance a bit,” said Spanhake, who was speaking from Europe where he was coaching teams on the TP52 circuit after having just worked a major 49er dinghy event.
Spanhake said the SAP Race Tracker is a useful tool for gauging the performance of boats at the front, middle and back of the 91-entry fleet. “We’ll be able to see which way the fleet went and use that technology to help people understand some of the dynamics of the race course,” he said.
North Sails Gulf Coast has a long association with the International 5O5 class. Former loft owner Ethan Bixby is a past world champion while current sales representative Lin Robson is also a veteran of the circuit. Lin Robson is entered in the 2017 SAP 5O5 World Championship with Matt Gardiner as crew.
Brian Malone, current owner of North Sails Gulf Coast, has continued the loft’s commitment to serving
the 5O5 community. Sponsoring these debriefs by Spanhake reinforces the dedication to one-design dinghy racing by North Sails Gulf Coast, which is based in St. Petersburg, Florida.
“Fuzz is an excellent, experienced coach with tremendous technical knowledge and a great ability to communicate,” Robson said. “We believe these debrief sessions will prove very useful to all competitors looking to improve their performance.”