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Pathways with Henry Woodhouse | Shore Crew

18 MARCH 2022Feature
by Henry Woodhouse, Shore Crew
Tags:
  • Great Britain
  • Pathways is a Great Britain SailGP Team guest blog series looking at the routes individual team members took into the sport. For the previous blog in the series from Female Sailor, Hannah Diamond, click here.

I have been on the shore team as part of the Great Britain SailGP Team since it started in 2019. My key roles are safety swimmer; ensuring the safety of all sailors and the boat, as well as maintaining the optimum racing condition of the F50, honing in on my STEM knowledge.

I grew up in Falmouth, a town on the coast of England and got into sailing through my father. I remember spending my weekends out racing with him and his team. I always enjoyed myself and loved being out on the water. Once I got a bit older, I joined a new sailing where I competed in Optimists. This happened to be the same sailing as Ben Ainslie, but Ben was sailing Lasers. I always knew that I wanted to have a career in sailing, so when I was still in school, I got an apprenticeship at Falmouth Docs doing boat builds and repairs. I worked there until I joined the military.

At age 18, I joined the military, following in the footsteps of my father who unfortunately passed away when I was still quite young. Being in the military made me into the man I am today as it taught me selflessness, discipline, respectfulness. I think that my ‘commando spirit’ continues to shine through in my everyday work.

After I left the military, I went back to the sailing world where I was a boat builder for two Volvo Ocean Races, and two America’s Cup.

When Matt Haslam called me in 2019 to be a part of the SailGP GBR team, I jumped at the opportunity as I saw the potential in the league as it is the pinnacle of sailing. The technology and engineering aspects are what fascinate me. It is great to be a part of a team, and league, that is pushing the boundaries of sailing and excelling on the water.

My two key roles are safety swimmer and shore crew member. As a safety swimmer, I oversee all safety elements on board the board, with the sailor’s safety as priority. This includes providing the knife and spare air are ready and full before each day of sailing. Being a safety swimmer means that when the boat capsizes, it is my job to do a headcount, ensure everyone is safe, and then get the boat back up and sailing.

My other key responsibility is to ensure that all mechanisms are always working on board the boat. As a mechanic, it is important that I maintain the nuts and bolts that allow the hydrofoils to function, as well as maintain the service and bearings of the whole boat.

This is put into practice at the end of the sailing day when we take the boat out of the water. We take the wing out of the platform, take the wing down, and then give the boat a good wash as it as the salt water can erode the many metal parts on board. Once the boat is back in the GBR base, I check all the bearings and steering systems, making sure there are no breakages or damages that need changing. I do this daily as the boat needs to be in optimum performance for racing. This is different to shore days when we are building up or packing down the boat before and after events into containers.

STEM plays quite a big role in my day-to-day work, especially within the technical and engineering elements. I need science to understand the work of the hydrofoils and check how they are acting under the right conditions while racing. I also use Mathematics quite often to check I have the right number of bearings, and right number of rollers in the right place. I am lucky that my background in boat building helps my understanding of composite engineering. Sustainability also plays a very important role in my day-to-day role. I am constantly thinking about small changes we can make around the boat that will save a plastic usage or save us time as well.

When I am not sailing, I really enjoy all activities that are outdoors: surfing, open water swimming, paddle boarding climbing, mountaineering, and skiing. “These sports are important to me as it helps protect my mental health. Mental health has always been important to me. “I am an ambassador for RV ONE to help others stay active in mental and physical health to benefit their mental health.”

My life motto is that “some people say you need luck to get places, but I think that is rubbish. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity – and you have made your own luck.” Don’t let people bring you down. If you work hard towards you goal, you can achieve anything.

What motivates me is my family, as well as the team. I know that coming into work every day, we [shore team] are responsible for functionality of the boat is a great motivator for me.


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