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America's Cup- Rod Davis - Time for a change after ten years with team

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World.com/nz on 21 Aug 2014
Artemis Racing competing in the Semi-Finals of the 2013 Louis Vuitton Cup in San Francisco Chuck Lantz © http://www.ChuckLantz.com
New Artemis Racing coach, Rod Davis says it was time for a change after ten years in a coaching role with Emirates Team New Zealand.

His involvement with the America’s Cup now extends for 12 campaigns, beginning at the age of 21 years as bowman on the 12 Metre Enterprise in the 1977 US Defense Trials, until the Lowell North skippered entry was excused from further participation in selection trials by the New York Yacht Club.

Since then he has competed in every America’s Cup, except the 2010 Deed of Gift Match, usually as a helmsman or coach.

Despite such an elongated sailing record, making the America's Cup Match five times, including 2007 and 2013, Davis has yet to win an America’s Cup. He was with OneAustralia in 1995 and Luna Rossa in 2000 and 2003. During that time Team New Zealand won, defended and lost the America’s Cup.

He joined Emirates Team NZ in 2004, when Dalton wanted, 'what he called some grey hair', to provide knowledge, experience and mentoring to the sailing team after the 2003 Cup Defeat. He provided those skills to all of ETNZ sailing programs over the last decade. 'Ten years is a long time as a coach of a professional team. It was time for a change,' he told Sail-World.com from Sweden. 'I don’t know of any other professional coaches that have gone ten years with the same team.'

'Mine will be a career of 40 years by the time I do the next America’s Cup,' he notes.

Davis says he will be involved in an expanded coaching role with Artemis, and that will also involve on the water co-ordination. 'I will be the co-ordinator for the water activities, to make that side of it run efficiently. That includes co-ordinating designers and sailors needs and trying to accomplish everything we have to get done on the water. 'It's a similar role to that I played in the ETNZ and Luna Rossa cooperation in our sailing for the last Cup.'

'I have to help the Artemis management shape the campaign and build on a culture that they started at the very end of the 34th America’s Cup, and then try to build that into a program that is capable and hopefully will win the America’s Cup.

'Artemis Racing has an incredibly talented bunch of sailors. Nathan Outteridge has the foiling experience from the Moth Worlds. We have got talent coming out our ears, but we need to provide an environment that gets the very best out of out team.

'That’s all very easy to say, but it is very tricky to do.'

'It is going to require a combination of passion and experience.'

The 1984 Olympic Gold medalist undertook a similar role with the New Zealand Olympic Sailing team after the disastrous 2004 Olympic result. He dovetailed the role of High Performance Director with Team New Zealand responsibilities through to the 2008 Olympics in Qingdao. His involvement in the controlling role was a prerequisite to governmental funding being provided for the 2008 campaign.

Davis says he was first approached to work with Artemis in March 2014. 'I had some good talks with Team New Zealand after the last Cup in December. We knew we were going to part ways at that point. The split has been very amicable. I got a note of congratulations from Shoebs (ETNZ's Kevin Shoebridge) this morning. We’re all good mates, but it is time for a change.'

'Money didn’t have anything to do with it. It is good for me to have new challenges. It is good for Team New Zealand to have a new voice, telling them a new way of looking at it. Ten years is a long time.'

This is not a new relationship for Davis. He worked with Artemis Racing previously on the RC44 circuit when Team New Zealand skipper, Dean Barker, used to helm for the Swedish team - before Artemis became involved in the America’s Cup.

'I did a lot of coaching for them, so I know Torbjörn (Törnqvist) from that time. Iain Percy I know from the Olympics and the Star class (Davis is an Olympic Silver medalist in the Star class). I haven’t coached him or any of the sailors previously but know of them because of all the Olympic involvement over the years.'

Davis leaves a team that has been in the America’s Cup game for 30 years and joins one that has sailed just four races in an AC72, during the 2013 Louis Vuitton Cup. He doesn’t expect to be overlaying the Team New Zealand culture onto Artemis Racing.

'Team New Zealand have a long history and use a culture and formula that has been very successful for them. Each team develops a culture that works for them. You couldn’t pick up Team New Zealand’s style and put it down over the top of Luna Rossa or Artemis or whoever. Just the same as you can’t transpose Luna Rossa’s style onto Team New Zealand, and get the same results.

'The trick is for us to develop a culture and environment that works for Artemis. It will be very different from Team New Zealand. We are just now working on what that is and how it is going to interact between designers and sailors.

'We are still moulding the culture and will be for the next three or four months. We have to get this part right. If we don’t then nothing else gets right after it.

'We will get it right,’ he adds confidently.

Davis says that the immediate tasks for Artemis are to get the culture right, work out how to win the America’s Cup and then start enacting that culture and strategy.

'At the same time, we do have a few balls up in the air,’ he notes. 'What is the venue? When is the actual Cup? Are there two venues for the Challengers? And what is the schedule for the AC45’s?'

'But a lot of what we have to do is outside of that. We know it is going to be in foiling catamarans. We do have enough to plot, but maybe not in the fine detail. Just the concepts.'

As a coach, Davis is probably best known for being able to impart his considerable match racing skills, rather than his multihull knowledge.

He believes that match racing will make a comeback in the America’s Cup as the boats get closer in performance terms.

'Every time you come out with first generation boats, you get bigger speed differences than for the second generation. For the next Cup, we have made changes to the boats that will probably foil upwind, and they are a little bit smaller. But the whole concept is for a foiling boat, and that type is catching on worldwide.

'I think that the gaps between the boats will be less than what we saw in San Francisco, last year. Next time we will have more match racing, and there will be a lot of match racing moves around the course.

'You still need a fast boat. Otherwise, all your match racing expertise will go down the tubes.'

At Team New Zealand, Rod Davis was afterguard coach - with oversight on Dean Barker, Ray Davies and Glenn Ashby. His coaching partner Joey Allen had responsibility for the front end of the AC72 – mechanics of sailing, crew-work and co-ordination. Davis handled tactics, starting tactics, moves, counter-moves and similar and mentored the whole team. 'Probably because I had been around for a long time,’ he quips.

'The immediate role with Artemis is to help Iain, Nathan and the rest of the team to create this culture. Eventually, I will roll back into the afterguard role, when we start racing.'


Given that only one AC62 is allowed per Challenger team, Davis expects that Artemis will stay with the AC45 as the development and training boat. The team has one foiler, and second AC45 that will be used for racing on the America’s Cup World Series circuit.

‘We need to be able to simulate the AC62 as best we can in terms of righting moment and balance,' he explains. 'Whatever boat you use – some fairly hefty modifications will be required.’

For the foreseeable future, Davis says the Swedish team will remain based at Alameda, on San Francisco Bay.

'The facilities are excellent,' he says. 'We won’t know until the end of the year whether it will be San Diego or Bermuda for the America’s Cup venue.

'Bermuda will be a big ask to set up full time. Right now the plan is to stay in Alameda, at least for the next year.'

Next major announcement in the America's Cup will be the presentation of the teams in London on September 9. So far five teams have announced their involvement and two have confirmed their entry.

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