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America's Cup- Ray Davies works out the Kinks for Emirates Team NZ

by ETNZblog.com on 16 Jun 2012
Ray Davies (being interviewed) takes credit for current state of the wiring in the Murray’s Bay SC kitchen at the prizegiving for the Stack 2012 New Zealand P-Class Nationals. Dean Barker (left) is the support act. John Adair

Emirates Team New Zealand tactician Ray Davies is one of the nicest guys you'll meet on the professional sailing circuit. A veteran Cup campaigner who won the Volvo Ocean Race 10 years ago, he's hungry to claim his first America's Cup for his home team in San Francisco in 2013.

His role on the team as tactician is a good fit for his skill set and puts him shoulder to shoulder with skipper Dean Barker, in a relationship that goes back over 25 years.

'Dean and I grew up sailing together. I rescued him in his P-Class when he was about 12 years old and his rudder broke and I towed him in with my P-Class,' he says, laughing at the memory. 'We used to sail against each other all the time in youth sailing. Then I went offshore to do Volvo races and he went into the America's Cup.

'But over the last couple of AC campaigns, I've been on the back of the boat with him (as strategist in 2007) and that's strengthened our relationship. We really had to trust each other and I think our styles really suit each other. We did all the Louis Vuitton Trophy events in 2009-2010 and pretty much dominated that and had success with the MedCup (in TP52s).

'But with this transition to the cats, I spend most of my time at the other end of the boat pulling ropes so Dean is very much his own tactician on these boats. I think it's hard to have a designated tactician on an AC45. So we're not as close as in the past, but we still have that element of trust.'

Davies says one big difference in the new AC72s (the Emirates team is planning to launch their first boat in July) is that he can return to a more traditional tactical role. But he says what he's learned from his more multi-purpose role on the AC45 is invaluable.

'There's definitely room on the 72 for a tactician who can be next to the helmsman, so that will unload Dean in a sense and it will put me back into a role I'm more accustomed to,' he says. 'But this time on the AC45 has been very useful in getting a greater awareness of the crew work and what's going on and how much time is needed to do things and how fatigued the guys get.'

Like many sailors from previous America's Cup campaigns, Davies was a newcomer to catamaran sailing, not trying it in earnest until the AC45 and AC72 classes were confirmed for this edition of the Cup, but he's taken to it like a fish to water.

'I started sailing A-Cats in November 2010 not long after the decision to choose catamarans and I really, really enjoyed it. I did a regatta in Australia and loved that, it was a massive learning curve. But in my experience, it's still sailing. You're still looking at the wind and dealing with the effects of wind and waves. If you're a good sailor, it's not a hard transition, it's just that things happen more quickly.'

When you spend time with Davies, he's so genial you can be lulled into thinking his competitive fire perhaps doesn't burn quite as brightly as in some of his more outspoken colleagues. That would be a mistake. Ask him about his biggest disappointment on the water and his expression clouds over.

'That's easy - 2007, the end of the America's Cup, and missing that last race (to Alinghi) by a whisker. That was very disappointing. It (the Cup) was winnable, but we didn't do it.'

And from the steely resolve in his expression, you can tell he'll do anything not to have to experience that again.




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