America’s Cup: New World for Everyone

Published on April 16th, 2017

While five of the America’s Cup teams have been training in the fickle winter weather on the Great Sound of Bermuda, Emirates Team New Zealand took advantage of their summer winds in Auckland to learn about their boat.

They have watched the three practice race sessions the other teams have took advantage of, and now with their arrival in Bermuda, will soon get a measure for how they match up. But as they see it, the new 49-foot America’s Cup Class is a new world for everyone, particularly when it comes to match racing.

The Kiwi team’s rookie America’s Cup helmsman, Peter Burling, believes the new class of boats, with their increased power and reduced crew size, puts the teams on a more even setting, negating his match-racing inexperience.

“I don’t think anyone is really comfortable match-racing these boats at high speed yet … definitely the experience of traditional match-racing is not as valuable as it’s been.

“These boats are incredibly different,” he continued. “The closing speeds now can be 40 knots each way at each other, I don’t think anyone has ever seen things like that.

“You look back at the prestarts of the last America’s Cup with the 72s and those boats definitely couldn’t go around the corner like these ones. It all looked incredibly docile back then compared to what we think is going to happen (this time).

“So our inexperience kind of gets outweighed by innovation and doing things slightly differently and not being afraid to look outside the box and take it on. That’s something that we have been doing the whole way through – trying to be innovative and keep pushing on.

“For us it’s all about making sure we are super clean around the course, super tidy and don’t make any unforced errors so that we can give ourselves a chance to make the right decisions when we get put under the pump and end up winning races.

“That’s what we are here to do – win races and bring the cup back to New Zealand.”

At this late stage Burling sees the starting box as a real area of gain as this competition evolves.

“Looking at the other guys … I think everyone is going to take some massive improvements from where we are now to where we end up.”

Manoeuvres are fast and tricky and, without the luxury of a dedicated tactician like at previous Cups, the big calls will come from Burling at the wheel and skipper Glenn Ashby who controls the massive wingsail.

Burling is loving the new boat and the challenges and responsibilities that come with trying to squeeze every bit of speed out of it for what promises to be the most competitive racing in the long history of the Auld Mug.

It’s a balancing act at times and already the quest for performance has seen a couple of capsizes by rival syndicates in Bermuda and Team New Zealand admitting to some “hairy moments” during their Auckland training.

“I definitely have plenty on my hands where I am,” Burling chuckles. “At 20-plus wind strength, you see how quickly these things go. They definitely turn into a bit of a handful in a bit of breeze.

“They are so far on the cutting edge, if you make the wrong move you can damage it and shut the whole place down for a couple of weeks.

“So you are careful but it’s all about balance and how hard to push and when to back off and take it a little easier. That’s going to have to go on right through.

“I’m trying to minimise the risk. But we have to push harder as well because we know all those other guys are pushing super hard.”

Team New Zealand are comfortable with their position of just over five weeks out from the start of racing. Their reconnaissance tells them they are well placed, though they are eager to find that out for themselves.

“It’s always hard to tell until you line up. We know we are definitely not miles off but we also know we have to keep pushing. We have a bar we are trying to reach with our performances and bits and pieces.

“Looking at our opponents, everyone is doing foiling gybes and foiling tacks … it comes down to the detail now.”

Source: Duncan Johnstone,

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