The tenth team that will be on the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series starting blocks has now been confirmed to be Emirates Team New Zealand with legendary America’s Cup skipper Dean Barker. With a further Series team announcement in the coming weeks, a full grid of 11 teams will embark on the eight stop global tour, which starts in Singapore in just over four weeks, with the first starting gun on the 20th February.
Emirates Team New Zealand
London 2012 silver medal winning 49er duo Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, who last week were announced as part of the Kiwi development squad for the 35th America’s Cup, will join Barker. While the pair are currently campaigning for the Rio 2016 Olympics, Barker and Burling will share skipper duties, as Barker explained: 'I will skipper five. We will rotate sailing squad members through the other crew positions. Between the two of us we will be able to field competitive crews through the year.'
Barker will be at the helm at the first two Acts, to be staged in Singapore and Muscat, Oman, in March. Burling will then take over for the following two in Qingdao, China in May and a brand new stadium in Saint Petersburg, Russia in June. The remaining Acts will be confirmed throughout the year.
Emirates Team New Zealand last competed in the Series in 2011, and after an unforgiving introduction to the world of elite level multihull racing, the team soon got to grips with the high-performance catamaran, as Barker recalls their first Act. 'It was at Almeria, Spain, and we were last. Extreme 40 racing is unlike any other; the teams are very competitive, races are short, the action non-stop and split-second decisions are needed.'
Burling and Tuke sailed in three Extreme 40 regattas last year with Team Korea, quickly getting to grips with the Stadium Racing formats before going on to win the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup in September. The final crew members are still to be confirmed.
Commenting on the number of teams on the starting grid in 2014, Mark Turner, Executive Chairman of organisers OC Sport said: 'We don't have a need or even want to grow the fleet massively – eight boats is our optimum to deliver top level stadium racing. We want the best sailors - we need to maintain that. Our model is commercial model and we attract commercial brands. It has been a conscious decision to take additional teams in 2014 as the next Cup cycle gets going again, and in 2015, it certainly won’t be a failure to have eight boats again.'
Singapore will host the curtain-raiser to the 2014 Series, where the fleet will race on the ultimate city-centre Stadium on Marina Bay. The question everyone wants to know, is will the experience of an existing team or a new team win through?
Extreme Sailing Series website