ABS: Tell us about your sailing career.
GH: I started sailing with my father, when I was very young. I had my first skiff, a Manly Junior, when I was eight. I then went on to sail Flying Ants and Cherubs. I started boardsailing when I was 14 years old, as well as 12ft skiffs. For the last few years I have been racing a J-24 and boardsailing.
ABS: What was your first introduction to boardsailing?
GH: I was at the Combined High School Sailing Regatta, held at Belmont and a couple of friends had Windsurfers. I found starting no problem and the day I got back to Sydney I bought a Windsurfer.
ABS: Could you run down your titles in boardsailing past and present.
*1977 - 2nd National WSC lightweight division - Overall 1st. 4th WSC World Championship lightweight division, held Sardinia
* 1978 -1st National WSC light medium division - heId Rose Bay, 2nd WSC World Championship light medium division held Cancun, Mexico - Overall 5th
* 1979 - 2nd National WSC held Port Stephens.
I had a few years off to study for the HSC then, coming back in
* 1981 - 6th WSC World Championship held Okinowa Japan.
* 1982 - Dufour National Champion lightweight division,
* 1982 - National WSC 1st Light medium held Port Stephens.
ABS: The pre-Olympic regatta is being held in Los Angeles at the present. You were selected, what made you decide not to go?
GH: Mainly due to funding (airfares, buying a Windglider board over there), I can easily train here, maybe I won't get the racing experience but I feel I have enough big racing experience. Also, it conflicts with college. However, I would have gone if I had had funding.
ABS: Who went in your place?
GH: Bruce Willie, in the end.
ABS: Due to the stringent patent laws in Australia, Windglider is not a racing class. How do you feel this will affect the performance of our team?
GH: Not much really. They will be a racing class by the time the selections are held in Adelaide. We will have six months on Windglider and that's plenty. You don 't get that much better after six months on a new board. Windsurfer boards are only slightly different. The only thing that will make it different and more difficult, will be not being allowed to use a harness. It's going to hurt a lot more and I don't agree with this.
ABS: Originally in WSC racing, you were not allowed to use a harness. How did you cope then?
GH: In Cancum - Mexico and Sardinia, I did alright. I think it was easier then using Windsurfer boards but Windglider equipment such as Mylar sails and aluminium masts, will make it harder. Due to the light to medium winds in LA, it will be hard," however the selection regatta to be held in Adelaide will be hard too, due to the prevailing strong wind conditions.
ABS: Why have they chosen not to use a harness?
GH: Just the class rules. I don't know why. They have made it into a weight lifting contest rather than a sailboard contest.
ABS: So you feel it will be strength over skill.
GH: No, it's still skill! It just means that the people who have the skill, will also have to be strong.
ABS: Now boardsailing is an Olympic class, there is contention regarding amateur and professional status. How and why do you keep your amateur status?
GH: Keeping amateur status, you don't go into any ads, or take any money for regattas (you are allowed to get expenses) that sort of thing. You are allowed to be sponsored for equipment, as long as you don't violate Rule 26.
ABS: Which is?
GH: Sponsorship on sails.
ABS: You mean advertisements on sails?
GH: Well, just to get a crack at the Olympics. I only want one go at it. After that, the challenge will have worn off. It's like winning the America's Cup. The first team to take it off the Americans will be really good and the first person to win a Gold Medal also but after that -_ well it's been done, hasn't it?
The Olympics will be good because it cuts out the professionals. I think it will be easier to win the Gold Medal than the WSC Worlds this year.
ABS: The Olympic boardsailing class will have only one weight division; you're in the light medium weight division - do you think this will be to your advantage?
GH: The Olympic champion will come out of either the light medium or heavy medium division . . . Stephen Vandenberg is getting too big - he is growing, Bobby Wilmot is getting too big also. I think about 65 kilos will be the maximum and maybe the minimum, because Windgliders are hard boards to sail. If it's windy, I suppose Bobby will be fast but in LA it's light. I think the heavies will have a bit of a problem racing guys who are lightweight, as long as they are strong too. That's why people who are big are winning at the moment, because of their sheer strength.
ABS: So what you are saying is that someone lightweight and strong will win.
GH: You will also need stamina and a will to win. That will be the big thing; how much adrenalin you can put in your veins to try to keep you standing upright, strong and thinking straight.
ABS: You don't think that the Olympics will be tactical, that it will depend more on strength.
GH: There will be more strength involved than say Windsurfer class racing but it's still going to be tactical. LA lends itself to the people who are very, very fast and strong, because it's a one-way course. You have to go right (the wind goes from west to north all afternoon) and you will have to get on the right-hand side, near the lay line, so you can take advantage of any lifts which will occur.
ABS: So it's the same as I every regatta - success needs a start . . .
GH: Oh yeah! Every regatta but this regatta will depend more on a good start.
ABS: You have boardsailed on the international circuit - did you notice any differences between nationalities?
GH: The French are very good - the Italians are not so good but they make up for it in some other antics.
ABS: Such as.
GH: Pumping. They exploit the rules to the maximum. So does everyone to an extent but the Italians seem to be doing it all the time, whereas other nationalities just dabble in it now and then.
The Italians and the Germans are pretty aloof, everyone who speaks English congregate together.
The French and Swiss mix and mingle a lot. For example, Karl Messmer, he's always with the English speaking; he speaks English and spends a lot of his time in Hawaii. It's broken up not so much by country but language.
ABS: Then you would spend most of your time with the Americans and the English...
GH: Not so much the English, as I have only seen one English team at a Windsurfer regatta. But the Americans, the Aussies and the South Africans all seem to congregate together, because of language and, I guess, similar lifestyles.
ABS: How do you feel about the Japanese?
GH: They are really good people, they try to help you. A good example of this came up at the J-24 Worlds. After the last race a Japanese guy came up to me and said, "We are friends" and gave me and each member of the crew a really nice T-shirt, which he had brought over especially to give, not to swap, just to give!
ABS: Will you be boardsailing at the WSC Worlds and Dufour world titles this year?
GH: Not the Dufour Class but at the WSC Worlds - yes! They are being held in Kingston, Canada.
ABS: Are you being sponsored?
GH: Yes, from the Nationals I won my accommodation (from Coca Cola) and from the Mid-
Winters I won the airfare (from Sailboards Australia).
ABS: Who are the major sponsers of WSC?
GH: Coke is the only sponser really. Sailboards Australia help the Windsurfer team but in boardsailing in general it's Coca Cola.
ABS: The Australian WSC Mid-Winter championships were held recently at Rose Bay; how did you go?
GH: 1st in lightweights division.
ABS: Was it a difficult regatta.
GH: It was for lightweights. We had a strong division. Stuart Gilbert got 4th in the WSC Worlds and Bruce Willie, 2nd. Tim Clarke was right up there in lightweights at the last Worlds. We have maybe, not the hardest division in Australia but certainly the most competitive for a World WSC chance (at least I'm hoping that way). I want to go away psyched up thinking that if I can beat these guys who are the top in the WSC Worlds, I will be top in the world, when I come home.
ABS: Are the lightweight medium and the heavies traditionally the strongest fleets?
GH: For Australia yes! Good people seem to congregate in the light medium and heavies; a lot of people seem to put on a lot of weight very quickly and take it off very quickly before regattas.
ABS: How do you psyche yourself up for a major regatta?
GH: For really big regattas, I make sure none of my equipment is going to break. If I don't get a new board, I will wash my board with detergent to get rid of the oil accumulated sailing in the harbour.
ABS: ls that to reduce skin friction?
GH: No, it doesn't do that but you tell your competitors it does!
I remember at the Dufour Nationals last year, we had one guy believing that MPF in toothpaste stood for Multi Functional Polymere (is there such a word?) and because polymere did something to the skin friction on the boundary layer, it made him go faster. He actually believed it! It was the funniest regatta and then a friend (Mich Miller) got Preen to spray on his sail and had one unnamed sailor doing it! It was a big stir. . .
ABS: Do you do any special training, before a regatta?
GH: Yes. Oh, really nothing special, I just go sailing as I usually do but a lot more often. For the mid-winters, I practised only racing - not freestyle or anything else. I do a lot of slalom. I just play doing slash gybes, which helps my racing. Before the Worlds, I will get a Mylar sail and a new mast, as they will be the equipment used during the WSC Worlds this year and practise solely with these, even though I will still sail regattas in Australia with Dacron sails, as that's the only sails class legal in Australia.
ABS: Will Mylar sails become class legal soon?
GH: Yes, in about one year. I think they will be slower though. The Neil Pryde Mylar sails I've seen aren't as good as the Dacron WSC sails.
ABS: How does it feel when you know you will win a regatta?
GH: I never know that I will win a regatta until I have got the points on the board, won that race. I'm one of those people who will go through the whole thing. I won't get happy until I know that thereare no protests against me. I'm really cautious about getting happy, because until you have the points on the board it can be taken away from you. Until you have won the race, even if you are only 10 yards from the finishing line, you can still lose a race, so you have to just 'go for it'.
ABS: With so many facets of boardsailing, why have you stayed with regatta sailing?
GH: Regatta sailing is the foundation of boardsailing. I think that wave performance contests will become a bigger part of boardsailing and it will probably overtake it in the media sense - however they will be so hard to co-ordinate. Look at the trouble they have with Windsurfing regattas; needing correct wind and then add to that the fact that wave performance regattas need at least 15 knots of wind with surf as well!
For example, Surf-about. They have to trek everywhere to get decent surf -- and now there is two contingencies: wind and surf.
Which is going to make it very hard to schedule contests. I love sailing in the surf (it's top fun) but that's where I think it ends. If you want to aspire to be really good at it, sure, go in all the contests, go to Hawaii. If you had the good surf conditions, like people in Tourquay and Hawaii. Australia has excellent surf conditions compared to anywhere else but you need theconditions all year around to get really good at wave performance.
ABS: In my experience, I have found that people who stay with regatta boards are sailors and the ones who go to the surf are predominantly surfers. Do you agree?
GH: Predominantly yes but look at Scotty O'Conner, he was a national Manly Junior champion and seemed pretty bored with Windsurfer, so he went wave jumping. He has had the opportunity to go overseas to do it, to go to Hawaii with Crit, instead of staying in Australia. I enjoy racing a lot. It's easier, it's less hassle for the fun I get out of it. it's easier than going into the surf, although I do have a lot of fun on days that are right (good conditions) I only go out into the surf, when it's good conditions - however if I was aspiring to be a champion in the surf I would have to go out in all conditions, in case they hold a contest in conditions like that. They are not going to be able to hold contests in perfect conditions all the time.
ABS: Will you be competing in the Gold Cup on the Gold Coast?
GH: No, I would love to and I really think that I should. A lot of people who have donated equipment say that I should. They put these regattas on and have no understanding of what people who go to uni. do - it overlaps with exams. I can't get away for it, I want a degree as well as to go sailing.
ABS: It seems notable that the top wave contestants have been top for the last few years. |t's obvious they have the sponsorships to stay in Hawaii . . .
GH: No one will ever catch Robbie (Naish). He just got into it too early and he now has the feel for it. He is not too good on short boards; you can see that Peter Cabrina is much better on short boards than Robbie. Robbie is a sailor before he is a surfer. They have the money and conditions and they will be at the forefront in surf sailing for a long time. Outside of Hawaii, I don 't feel it is that important. Hawaii is where everyone wants to go 'the Mecca of boardsailing'.
ABS: What type of boards do you own?
GH: At the moment, a Windsurfer Regatta board - that's obvious - a New Toy by Mark Paul. I was going to get a Bombora Proto but the New Toy is identical, costs half as much and is more durable.
I would suggest a Tri-Fin by Mark Paul to anyone who is not that good - that is for intermediate sailors. If you can handle 20-25 knots without falling in on a Windsurfer, go straight to a New Toy; you can't sail a New Toy in 15 knots, it sinks! I get the use of a M1 (Mistral) from Mistral and Sailboards Australia to sail open class regattas. I'm one of the Mistral Open Class team.
ABS: What type of sail do you prefer?
GH: On my short board I use Gaastra and Mylar sails - 5.5, 5.0,4.5 and 3.8 square metres. The most important and the main ones I use are 5.0 and 3.8 square metres.
On the M1 I use Gaastra racing sails (made in Hong Kong). They're really good.
ABS: What about the harness?
GH: I use a Gaastra spreader harness without the spreader, because of the weight of the spreader. I have my hook down, because I carry my harness hook low, as I have my booms as high as possible (i.e., on Windsurfer) so I get more leach tension. This seems to make me point higher and give me more power. I also have my out-haul really loose to compensate for my leach tension.
When it gets windy and you want to use your harness, you want it to pull down, naturally. Top overseas competitors use a hip harness to pull down on the rig. I use a low hook with booms as high as possible and the harness straps not much longer than normal. You have to get right on your toes and jump to hook in and then you just sit in your harness, it gives you more power. lt's a lot harder to learn and sail as it's easier to be lifted and catapulted.
You can't use your harness in really gusty conditions, so you use your arms more. You have your feet further aft on the board so that you lean forward. To stop yourself leaning too far forward, you pull down on your back arm; when you are hooked in your harness, this pulls down on the back of the booms - which gives you a tight leach.
ABS: What are your strongest abilities in regatta racing?
GH: Attitude is really important. I love to win - and that's where it starts. Experience with the wind is the most important factor. I have never been the best board-handler in the world, or been really fast.
Being able to read wind shifts gets me to the front.
As I have never been really fast, I concentrate on the wind rather than my board speed. My favourite wind strength is 15- 18 knots, as I don't have to worry about my board speed. I know that everyone goes the same speed in that wind, the board will naturally go high and fast, so I can then concentrate on the wind.