France athlete Manon Audinet has opened up about her experience of stepping into the role of flight controller for the first time in Singapore.
Following September’s Spain Sail Grand Prix, the French team reshuffled its four-person crew configuration and moved strategist Audinet into flight control instead of the first grinder (G1) position - the usual arrangement throughout the fleet.
Typically in a four-person set up, the driver also takes on flight control but this was resulting in ‘a lot of work’ for driver Quentin Delapierre, Audinet said.
“We decided that (…) if we took the flight control job from him, it would free him up for the tactics,” Audinet explained. “We decided that if myself or (co-strategist Amelie Riou) could take on flight control, we would have a good balance of roles on the boat.”
With two days of simulator training under her belt, Audinet was asked to step into the role for the first time in Singapore, both in practice racing and the first official race day.
Those two days on the simulator turned out to be crucial, Audinet said, simply in terms of ‘knowing where all the buttons are, how the pepper cracker works and getting a feel for how sensitive the controls are’.
Stepping into the boat was actually ‘a bit easier’ in comparison, Audinet said, as she drew on her extensive experience sailing the Nacra 17.
“On the boat, I felt I could use more of my skills from the Nacra whereas it took me a bit of time to adapt on the simulator screen where it was difficult to get a real depth perception.”
The light wind conditions on the first day of racing made it difficult for the F50s to fly, but taking on flight control in the practice racing was valuable training, Audinet said.
“It felt really good to fly the boat next to the others,” she said. “I could feel that my concentration level was at its highest!”
Going forward, Audinet is looking forward to getting ‘back in the role again’. “I need a lot more training to be 100% confident, so every chance I get, I’ll take it,” she said.
Both she and Delapierre hope their decision to move her into flight control will inspire other teams to try the arrangement too.
“I hope it could also push other teams to try similar things with their female athletes,” Audinet said, “we all know we are good sailors, the only thing we need is more time practicing.”
Delapierre agreed, complimenting Audinet’s performance in Singapore. “She took up the challenge very well and in a day and a half she found her feet,” he said. “In a few grand prix, she will be in full capacity in flight control
“It’s time to change things with the Women’s Pathway and show the other teams that it is possible and an athlete like Manon can fully play the game,” he added.