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America's Cup - Two more NZL Sailing Team members sign with Team NZ

by Richard Gladwell, on 10 Nov 2016
- Emirates Team New Zealand - Waitemata Harbour, November 9, 2016 Richard Gladwell
Emirates Team New Zealand have announced that two members of the NZL Sailing Team have signed on for the 35th America's Cup.

They will be added to an already strong sailing squad which includes 2016 Olympic Gold medalists, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke.

'The aim to continue to bring a new generation of young, fit and ultra talented New Zealand sailors to the America’s Cup steps forward with New Zealand Sailing Team members Andy Maloney and Josh Junior joining Emirates Team New Zealand for the 35th America’s Cup campaign', says Emirates Team New Zealand in a statement.

Laser sailor, Andy Maloney ran a tight selection race with eventual Olympic Bronze medalist Sam Meech. The two competed for the New Zealand spot in the Rio 2016 Olympics right until the selection deadline, and gave the New Zealand selectors a very tough decision. Maloney's sister Alex was selected in the NZ Olympic team in the 49erFX and won a Silver medal in Rio.

Josh Junior was also in a tight contest for the New Zealand slot in the Finn class at the 2016 Olympics. He was trying to unseat two time Olympian Andrew Murdoch who had previously represented New Zealand in the Laser class in 2008 and 2012. Both skippers transitioned to the Finn, used in the Heavyweight Mens Single handed event. In the end a better run in the final period before the Olympics earned Josh Junior his first trip to the Olympics. He started well in Rio, stumbled in the middle of the even and then recovered to make the top ten and competed in the Medal race. His selection was very much regarded as a way of blooding new talent for 2020 and beyond.

The transition of sailors from the NZL Sailing Team into the America's Cup team confirms the final step in the pathway where a New Zealand sailor can now see a clear pathway through from Optimist level to Youth Worlds then Olympics and into the professional sailing teams such as Emirates Team New Zealand.

An alternate pathway also exists though the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron's outstanding Youth Program supported by the Lion Foundation, using a fleet of Elliott 7 metre sports boats in a two year full-on program.

Having the New Zealand America's Cup program work closely with Yachting New Zealand and the club programs such as the RNZYS Lion Youth program has been a long standing objective of NZ sailing administrators. Coupled with strong educational support from High Performance Sport NZ through Prime Ministers scholarships and similar support schemes, young sailors can get strong financial support for a university education while they remain in New Zealand as part of the Youth and other development programs.

Emirates Team New Zealand are currently sailing their AC45S on the Waitemata almost on a daily basis in their test program ahead of the 35th America's Cup. The addition of the new crew, brings the listed sailing crew numbers to 12 sailors who have come from a mix of the existing team, NZL Sailing team, Luna Rossa plus an Olympic Rowing gold medallist. In total the team has three Olympic Gold medals, an Olympic Silver medal and numerous World Championships with its sailing group.

The shift into Emirates Team New Zealand should not impact the 2020 Olympic campaigns of either sailor, they are both expected to return to the NZL Sailing Team for the 2020 build-up in the same way that Peter Burling and Blair Tuke worked within the two teams leading to Rio, and depending on what happens beyond the 2017 America's Cup.

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