RED WITH RE­VENGE

Sailing World - - Contents - BY SEAN McNEILL

The Ki­wis re­turn with an ax to grind and a hot young skip­per on the helm.

Emi­rates Team New Zealand is back for a ninth go at the Auld Mug, bring­ing with them the de­ter­mi­na­tion to put to rest its ig­no­min­ious loss of 2013.

FOR A TEAM WITH the ten­ure of Emi­rates Team New Zealand, one would think the Amer­ica’s Cup Event Au­thor­ity, which runs the show these days, would be ec­static to have them re­turn for their ninth chal­lenge un­der the lin­eage. Not so, is the Kiwi sen­ti­ment. They’re the prover­bial thorn in the Cup man­age­ment’s back­side, and should they pre­vail in Ber­muda this sum­mer, they could be the most dis­rup­tive force the mod­ern Cup has seen yet.

Team New Zealand was founded for the 1986-87 Cup off Fre­man­tle, West­ern Aus­tralia, and has par­tic­i­pated in all since, save for the 2010 Deed of Gift Match off Va­len­cia, Spain. And the team has writ­ten some of the most epic chap­ters in the Cup’s sto­ried his­tory. There were the back-to-back vic­to­ries in 1995 and 2000, which made New Zealand only the sec­ond coun­try at the time to win the Amer­ica’s Cup and de­fend it. Most re­cently, there was the near miss in San Fran­cisco, where Team New Zealand came within one race of win­ning the Amer­ica’s Cup for a third time, only to be felled by the his­toric come­back of Or­a­cle Team USA.

In the in­ter­est of hav­ing a ro­bust field of com­pet­i­tive chal­lengers, it would seem Emi­rates Team New Zealand’s pres­ence would be wel­comed with open arms, but that never seems the case with the New Zealan­der squad, which seems to rel­ish its reg­u­lar role as the Cup’s an­tag­o­nist.

“We are very much the lone wolf,” said team CEO Grant Dal­ton to The New York Times in a Fe­bru­ary 2017 in­ter­view. “There are five teams that want us dead now, not one, only be­cause we’ve ru­ined their lit­tle pa­rade.”

Team New Zealand’s per­ceived slights in the past have largely been size re­lated. “Us against the world” is a fa­mil­iar re­frain for Ki­wis, a sto­ry­line they love to play. Be­ing from an is­land na­tion in the bot­tom of the South Pa­cific, they get some lee­way. This sen­ti­ment helped rally the sports­mad pop­u­lous dur­ing the team’s his­toric first Cup vic­tory in 1995 and sub­se­quent de­fense in 2000.

This time around, how­ever, Team New Zealand’s slight comes with fi­nan­cial ram­i­fi­ca­tions. The story goes that the Amer­ica’s Cup Ar­bi­tra­tion Panel found Team New Zealand ag­grieved in a dis­pute with the Amer­ica’s Cup Event Au­thor­ity. In the first it­er­a­tion of the plans for the 35th Amer­ica’s Cup, ACEA had sched­uled a pre­lim­i­nary re­gatta for New Zealand in Fe­bru­ary/march 2017, two months be­fore the 35th Match for the Amer­ica’s Cup in Ber­muda.

Less than a year later, ACEA can­celed the New Zealand re­gatta and resched­uled all pre­lim­i­nary rac­ing for Ber­muda, cit­ing a need to “rein in costs.” Team New Zealand sub­se­quently lost its long­time spon­sor­ship deal with the New Zealand govern­ment, which had spon­sored the team in Va­len­cia in 2007 and San Fran­cisco in 2013.

Team New Zealand took its case to the Ar­bi­tra­tion Panel, a new body estab­lished for this Cup cy­cle, and from whose cham­ber no words are re­leased, and was ul­ti­mately awarded dam­ages that sources say rang up to the tune of more than $10 mil­lion.

Dal­ton be­lieves an im­por­tant part of a chal­lenger’s role is to keep the de­fender on its heels, but he doesn’t even ac­knowl­edge that such an is­sue ex­ists. Team New Zealand dou­bled down by also re­fus­ing to sign a “frame­work agree­ment” put forth by de­fender Or­a­cle Team USA that binds teams en­tered to use the cur­rent for­mat — namely the two- year tim­ing, Amer­ica’s Cup Class cata­ma­ran and Amer­ica’s Cup World Se­ries — for the next two edi­tions, re­gard­less of who wins. Artemis Rac­ing, Land Rover BAR, Softbank Team Ja­pan and Team France all inked the deal.

Dal­ton and Cup ob­servers, how­ever, see the doc­u­ment as an act of ger­ry­man­der­ing that con­tra­venes the Deed of Gift, the main gov­ern­ing doc­u­ment of the Amer­ica’s Cup. “We fun­da­men­tally don’t agree with it,” says Dal­ton.

Dal­ton’s hard- edged per­sona is de­vel­oped from hun­dreds of thou­sands of nau­ti­cal miles logged in round- the- world races, but he’s also re­silient. He has kept Team New Zealand on course through tough times. Fund­ing has al­ways been an is­sue for the team, which re­lies heav­ily on cor­po­rate spon­sor­ship and also the pa­tron­age of three team board mem­bers: Stephen Tin­dall, among New Zealand’s top 55 wealth­i­est peo­ple with an es­ti­mated worth of $ 270 mil­lion NZD, Bob Field, the for­mer CEO of Toy­ota New Zealand and, in par­tic­u­lar, Team Prin­ci­pal Mat­teo de Nora, the Swiss- Ital­ian mil­lion­aire who has been the main pa­tron of Team New Zealand since its em­bar­rass­ing loss in 2003.

The three of them are one of the rea­sons Dal­ton is still in charge. They backed him in a coup at­tempt in the months fol­low­ing the par­a­lyz­ing loss of 2013, in which Team New Zealand streaked out to an 8- 1 lead be­fore los­ing eight con­sec­u­tive races and the Amer­ica’s Cup, 9- 8. That coup was led by for­mer skip­per Dean Barker and an­other past sup­porter of the Kiwi team. It also seemed to have the sup­port of ACEA CEO Rus­sell Coutts, the for­mer skip­per who sug­gested dur­ing the bat­tle that Team New Zealand was on the brink of col­lapse.

When the coup at­tempt failed, Barker had to go. It was Barker who fa­mously took the helm of Team New Zealand from Coutts in its se­ri­esclinch­ing Race 5 of the 2000 Amer­ica’s Cup against Italy’s Prada Chal­lenge. He stood arm in arm with Coutts on the stage in Viaduct Har­bor and hoisted the Amer­ica’s Cup aloft for ra­bid New Zealan­ders to cheer.

Three months af­ter that glee­ful mo­ment, Team New Zealand was in dis­ar­ray. Coutts and four of his clos­est lieu­tenants had bolted for the big bucks of Ernesto Bertarelli’s Alinghi team from Switzerland. The fresh­faced Barker was in­stalled as Team New Zealand’s new skip­per, hold­ing the po­si­tion through 2013. But his record was less than en­vi­able. Af­ter win­ning Race 5 in 2000, he went on to lose the 2003 Match 5-0, the 2007 Match 5-2, and worse, the 2013 Match de­spite the sub­stan­tial lead.

That fi­nal loss in­censed Dal­ton, a man who ab­so­lutely de­spises los­ing. Ever the fighter, and with the back­ing of the board, Dal­ton sur­vived the coup at­tempt, and then took to re­shap­ing the sail­ing team. It was time for the next wave.

Glenn Ashby, an Aus­tralian cata­ma­ran sail­ing whiz who was the wing trim­mer in the 2013 cam­paign, has re­placed the de­parted Barker, who has gone on to skip­per Softbank Team

“THERE ARE FIVE TEAMS THAT WANT US DEAD NOW, NOT ONE,” SAYS GRANT DAL­TON, “ONLY BE­CAUSE WE’VE RU­INED THEIR LIT­TLE PA­RADE.”

Ja­pan. The 39-year-old Ashby is only the third skip­per for the team since the 1995 cam­paign, and his ex­pe­ri­ence in mul­ti­hulls is in­valu­able. He helped get Or­a­cle Team USA skip­per Jimmy Sp­ithill up to speed in the mas­sive tri­maran USA 17, which won the 2010 Deed of Gift Match. Ashby then men­tored Barker through­out the 2013 cy­cle. He’s the right man for the right job.

Ashby’s role as skip­per won’t change much from his role last time. He’ll again trim the wing and men­tor a new­comer to mul­ti­hull rac­ing, the emer­gent Peter Burl­ing. In the 26- year- old Burl­ing, Team New Zealand might very well have a game changer on the order of Dennis Con­ner or Rus­sell Coutts.

Burl­ing is nearly un­beat­able. He won his first world ti­tle at 15 and was New Zealand’s youngest Olympic sailor when he com­peted as a 17-year-old in Bei­jing 2008. In Lon­don in 2012, he be­came the sec­ond- youngest Kiwi sailor to win an Olympic medal. As a 21-year-old in 2012, he won Olympic Gold in the 49er Class. As a 22-yearold in 2013, he won the Red Bull Youth Amer­ica’s Cup, lead­ing the Team New Zealand rep­re­sen­ta­tive team.

In 2016, he and crew Blair Tuke won their sec­ond Olympic Gold in the 49er. Burl­ing and Tuke were se­lected as the Rolex World Sailors of the Year in 2015. They led the New Zealand Olympic Team into the sta­dium for the Open­ing Cer­e­mony and won New Zealand’s pres­ti­gious Hall­berg Award for best sports team in 2016 based on their dom­i­na­tion of the Olympic Re­gatta, which they won with two races to spare.

Burl­ing was named helms­man in Fe­bru­ary 2015. Later that sum­mer, he stepped into the AC45 and placed sec­ond at the first Amer­ica’s Cup World Se­ries event. He fol­lowed it up with a vic­tory at the sec­ond re­gatta and an­other sec­ond at the third re­gatta.

“I think we were just hav­ing fun and learn­ing quicker than the other guys,” says Burl­ing. “I think we showed them how quickly we can learn and get to grips with new boats and for­mats. Re­cently we have been work­ing hard on the Cup boat and, like ev­ery­one here, we are pretty ex­cited about get­ting rac­ing in a few months’ time.”

The turnover from an old team to a young one ex­tends to the front of the boat as well. There’s Tuke, who’ll fill a trim­mer’s role. Other new sailors in­clude Josh Ju­nior, who rep­re­sented New Zealand in the Finn Class in Rio last sum­mer, and Andy Maloney, a Laser sailor who nar­rowly missed se­lec­tion for the Olympics. Team New Zealand has also re­cruited Si­mon van Velthooven, a bronze medal-win­ning cy­clist in 2012, and Joseph Sul­li­van, a gold medal-win­ning rower in 2012. They all help lower the av­er­age age of the crew to younger than 30.

“Ev­ery­one on this team is as im­por­tant as the next guy,” says Ashby. “It’s a whole team pol­icy where we have a be­lief in the col­lec­tive power as a whole and not any one in­di­vid­ual to get the job done. It is very much a new team from 2013 across most de­part­ments and, as a re­sult, we have a very healthy and fresh team cul­ture.”

An­other en­dur­ing legacy of the Team New Zealand brand is one of in­ven­tive­ness. The first cam­paign in 1986-87 fa­mously built its 12-Me­ters of fiber­glass, prompt­ing the slan­der­ous line from Dennis Con­ner stat­ing that fiber­glass boats in place of alu­minum is akin to cheat­ing.

In the 1992 Cup off San Diego, Team New Zealand built the “skiff on steroids.” The un­der­size ACC sloop seemed un­beat­able but then proved to be too small to han­dle the Pa­cific Ocean swell and wa­ter­line length of Il Moro di Venezia. Back then, wa­ter­line length mat­tered most.

The 1995 and 2000 cam­paigns fea­tured de­vel­op­men­tal de­sign im­prove­ments that were good enough to win the Amer­ica’s Cup back to back. The 2003 cam­paign fea­tured the “Hula,” the un­der­wa­ter ap­pendage that was fit­ted on the hull be­tween the keel and rud­der, and de­signed to in­crease wa­ter­line length when sail­ing. It didn’t work. And the 2013 cam­paign de­vel­oped the hy­dro­foils that now de­fine the event.

Pop­u­lar the­ory holds that if Team New Zealand hadn’t shown its abil­ity to foil so early, it would’ve foiled all the way to New Zealand from San Fran­cisco with the Amer­ica’s Cup in tow.

That’s partly why Team New Zealand waited un­til the 11th hour to re­veal its de­vel­op­ment trick this time around: grind­ing pedestals pow­ered by legs in­stead of arms. The new Amer­ica’s Cup class cata­ma­ran, mea­sur­ing 49 feet in length, fea­tures six crewmem­bers whose av­er­age weight is 192 pounds, which rep­re­sents a loss of five mas­sive crew whose pri­mary job on the AC72S of San Fran­cisco was to grind con­tin­u­ously for 25 to 30 min­utes to keep the hy­draulics pres­sur­ized for in­stan­ta­neous re­sponse.

Since the legs are nat­u­rally stronger than the arms, it rea­sons that one can get more power from them. The grinders — or “cy­clers,” as they’ve been dubbed by some — ride on a pedestal, and that helps free their hands to work sys­tem con­trols mounted on han­dle­bars.

Count Barker and Or­a­cle Team USA’S Sp­ithill as those who have gone on the record say­ing the cy­cle grinders won’t work. They say every team has re­searched it, but it comes with draw­backs: The sailors have to run across the tram­po­line in cleats, they have to clip in once in po­si­tion, and there’s the aero­dy­namic fac­tor to con­sider. Even Kiwi sailors ad­mit it won’t be a game changer, but it could lead to de­sign fea­tures that are in­vis­i­ble to the eye.

“If you go to leg power, maybe you get 10 to 15 per­cent ex­tra power for longer pe­ri­ods,” said for­mer Team New Zealand de­signer Mike Drum­mond. “So Team New Zealand, by get­ting more power out of their grinders for longer pe­ri­ods, maybe they can go to slightly faster foils.”

Only time and re­sults will tell whether such Kiwi in­ge­nu­ity is enough to pro­pel them to the Cup Match come late June. For while they worked in iso­la­tion through­out the cold New Zealand win­ter, Or­a­cle Team USA and its sur­ro­gate Softbank Team Ja­pan trained along­side each other in Ber­muda. The two of them en­gaged in oc­ca­sional prac­tice races with Artemis Rac­ing and Land Rover BAR, even­tu­ally joined by Groupama Team France, which will ul­ti­mately ben­e­fit the “Frame­work Five.”

To emerge from the 35th Amer­ica’s Cup as the lone wolf- turned- al­pha male, how­ever, would be a fit­ting chap­ter to this team’s en­dur­ing and fas­ci­nat­ing story. Q

“I T IS VERY MUCH A NEW TEAM FROM 2013 ACROSS MOST DE­PART­MENTS,” SAYS GLEN ASHBY. “AS A RE­SULT, WE HAVE A VERY HEALTHY AND FRESH TEAM CUL­TURE.”

With ped­als to the metal, Emi­rates Team New Zealand trains alone on its AC50 dur­ing the New Zealand win­ter. In its role as ad­ver­sary to the de­fender, ETNZ re­turns to the Cup with an ax to grind and a thirst for re­demp­tion. PHOTO : HAMISH HOOPER

Glen Ashby, ETNZ’S ac­com­plished wing trim­mer, over­sees the es­sen­tial role of meld­ing the af­ter­guard’s col­lec­tive Cup ex­pe­ri­ence with the am­bi­tion of the squad’s younger sailors.

Emi­rates Team New Zealand’s freak­ishly good helms­man Peter Burl­ing is fear­less in any high-speed plat­form. As world cham­pion in the Moth and the best 49er helms­man ever, he will be one to reckon with in Ber­muda. PHOTO : HAMISH HOOPER

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