Fly­ing Ki­wis reignite Cup fever

Team NZ’s young, fit and re­source­ful crew have in­no­va­tion edge and score to set­tle

Weekend Herald - - VIEWPOINTS - Our view

It al­most feels like the Amer­ica’s Cup has started with the dam­age done to Team New Zealand’s boat by a ri­val boat dur­ing prac­tice rac­ing this week, though it will be an­other week be­fore the real rac­ing starts.

Al­ready the adrenalin is ris­ing. The event that cap­ti­vates so many New Zealan­ders every four years will work its magic again.

It is re­mark­able that it con­tin­ues to do so. In be­tween re­gat­tas, the back­bit­ing and pe­cu­liar rules of the Amer­ica’s Cup, al­low­ing the holder to stack the cards in its favour for the next de­fence, causes just about ev­ery­one to lose in­ter­est. Yet here we go again, this time to Ber­muda.

The Atlantic venue is so far from New Zealand and has such a low pop­u­la­tion that the Gov­ern­ment has seen no likely re­turn that would al­low it to put pub­lic money into the chal­lenge this time. Emi­rates Team NZ will have found it more dif­fi­cult to re­tain pri­vate spon­sor­ship too. It is a great credit to Grant Dal­ton and the team that they will be on the start- line again.

Their ef­fort is par­tic­u­larly cred­itable this time be­cause they will have been as dev­as­tated as all their sup­port­ers in New Zealand by what hap­pened at San Fran­cisco four years ago. They had the Cup all but won when weather be­calmed the ninth race, and they could not win an­other.

The de­fender, Or­a­cle Team USA, turned out to have de­vel­oped winch­ing equip­ment that gave them an edge. Noth­ing can be taken for granted in this never- end­ing, high stakes con­test of de­sign and tech­nol­ogy as well as sail­ing and crew- work.

This time it ap­pears Team NZ might have the early in­no­va­tive edge. The cy­cling grinders first seen on Auck­land Har­bour a few months ago have been copied at least par­tially by Or­a­cle.

This Amer­ica’s Cup could look quite dif­fer­ent from the last. Though it again fea­tures foil­ing cata­ma­rans with a wing sail, the boats are smaller, faster and de­sign to “fly” around the whole course on their foils. “Fly” might not be an ex­ag­ger­a­tion. With so lit­tle of their frame in the wa­ter and no bow wash or salt spray they will look like aerial ve­hi­cles, par­tic­u­larly on tele­vi­sion. They will be ca­reer­ing around the course at speeds closer to those of cars than sail­boats. They will be try­ing to gybe and tack on the foils and they are prob­a­bly go­ing to crash, side­ways or head into the wa­ter, more of­ten than highly tuned yachts and crews have ever done.

It re­mains to be seen whether this sort of spec­ta­cle has as much ap­peal as tra­di­tional tac­ti­cal sail­ing. It is a long way from the grand, ma­jes­tic mono­hulls that used to vie for the old­est tro­phy in sport. But the trend has been in this di­rec­tion ever since Rus­sell Coutts took charge of the Amer­ica’s Cup with Alinghi.

Coutts is still ef­fec­tively in charge with Or­a­cle, as it was at San Fran­cisco. This time Or­a­cle has forged an un­usu­ally close work­ing re­la­tion­ship with four of the chal­lengers, which does not in­clude Team NZ. Not only are the “tight five” mak­ing the rules at Ber­muda but they are try­ing to bind the win­ner to the same for­mat for the next two Amer­ica’s Cups.

The Ki­wis are re­fus­ing to join this club. They will be out to up­set its plans at Ber­muda. Un­der Olympic cham­pi­ons Peter Burl­ing and Blair Tuke, they are a young crew, un­der­fi­nanced but fit and re­source­ful. It will be fun to watch them fly.

Noth­ing can be taken for granted in this nev­erend­ing, high stakes con­test of de­sign and tech­nol­ogy as well as sail­ing and crew- work.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.