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America's Cup- Grant Dalton on hitting the big zero - Video interview

by Richard Gladwell on 13 Dec 2012
A wet ride on Emirates Team NZ’s AC72 - last day of sailing December 12, 2012 © Richard Gladwell www.photosport.co.nz

Emirates Team New Zealand have become the first, and probably only team that will use its allocated 30 days for the first phase of sailing AC72's.

According to the virtual Official Noticeboard the team has a zero alongside its name in terms of sailing days left. Luna Rossa has 18, Artemis Racing 23 and Oracle Team USA 22days. Many pundits see that as a measure of the current state of play in the 34th America's Cup. In reality it is hard to argue against, but Emirates Team NZ's MD, Grant Dalton seemed to be more focussed on what lay ahead, rather than the margin the team may have on the rest of the field. In fact it never came up.

Looking back on the five months that have elapsed since their first AC72 was launched, and the gains that have been achieved. 'I know that the boat we have now is significantly quicker than the one we launched in July. It is a percentage thing. If you gain one or two percent in an area, it becomes a big number because of the speed we are sailing. Let's say if the gains all added up to 10 percent and we are sailing at 40kts downwind, then suddenly it is doing 44kts, in crude terms.

'All teams will be experiencing this, you just make gains so quickly.

'The sail-ability of the boat and being able to push or lean on the boat, is I think very, very important', he added.

A veteran of America's Cup, Volvo and Whitbread and round the world multihull racing, Dalton says the focus in the Emirates Team NZ program will now shift from speed to reliability. 'We have to stop throwing experiments at the boat, and have to start getting the thing around the track day after day without breakage. We can potentially lose our series by having a breakage.'

'At the point we are now at, we have to move from a technical base to a reliability base. We got good at that in the last campaign. And there are lesson from that which we will bring across into the new boat. By the time we leave NZ we have to have a package, that in theory, we can get around the track without any issues.'

During the video interview, and chat beforehand, Dalton revealed that the team were caught a little unawares by the weather system that hit Auckland last Thursday, resulting in a tornado that caused substantial damage and caused three deaths.

The breeze cracked in from the NE, an onshore wind in Auckland, working against and outgoing tide, which in the area they were sailing in is ebbing at up to three knots, but regardless of strength, can create significant seas. 'It was building a decent seaway on top of a Pacific swel, and with the tide going out, it just stands it up. As anyone knows that lives in Auckland, trying to get out of the Rangitoto Channel in an decent NEasterly is a good way to break your boat.'

'It grew a lot more as a result of that weather system coming ashore and spinning up the system that was so devastating in Hobsonville.'

'We got 30knots and decided to high tail it for home, dead downwind in waves. We saw bigger loads in certain areas than we'd seen before.

'If it was going to pitchpole, then we would have found out. If it hadn't have been foil assisted to be able to hold you up, then the forward buoyancy wouldn't save you in those conditions. These boats with the wingsail are so over-powered, there is so much over turning moment. I don't even know it you'd have got through the bearaway (without foils).

'But the boat would always plough through, even though we were digging in back to the main beam.

'We got back safely - and at pace!'

'It was hard to keep the boat foiling, and at times the bows were both going in. What we proved on that day, was that we could sail safely in the conditions that have been set up to race in the Protocol.'

For the rest of this story and more on the state and future direction of the Emirates Team NZ America's Cup campaign see the video below

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