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Cup news, Vendee Globe update, US Sailing staff changes

by David Schmidt 24 Nov 2020 08:00 PST November 24, 2020
In flight Te Rehutai appears to be an aircraft - Emirates Team New Zealand AC75 - Te Rehutai - November 20, 2020 © Richard Gladwell / Sail-World.com

Daylight and warm temperatures might be in short supply these days in most of North America, and rainfall might be abundant here in the Pacific Northwest, but that sure doesn't mean that the international sailing news cycle is in hibernation. Far from it. From Auckland to the South Atlantic, news is buzzing, giving those of us who are adjusting to the norms of a "different" kind of Thanksgiving something to focus on, aside from a still raging virus, a changing administration, and the long list of family and friends that we'd all love to see. While I can't speak for you, dear readers, I'll personally take comfort in any port in this storm, even if it means some vicarious living.

For Cup junkies, Emirates Team New Zealand made international headlines last Thursday when they unveiled Te Rehutai, their second-generation AC75, at a ceremony in Auckland. The boat's lines look considerably different than their first-generation AC75, with a flared bow, a pronounced "bustle" on her undercarriage that's intended to ease the transition between displacement mode and foiling mode, and even sleeker aerodynamics.

"We've been searching for the perfect balance between hydrodynamic and aerodynamic performance," said Dan Bernasconi, ETNZ's head of design, in an official team press release. "An AC75 that was optimized purely to accelerate and take-off would look very different to one which was optimized for steady flight, and that's reflected in the huge variation we see between our competitors' yachts in the fleet. Te Rehutai is designed to excel in both domains - the water and the air - and we're confident she'll be competitive across the range of wind speeds we may see in the America's Cup."

True to form, the Kiwis wasted almost no time in sailing the boat for the first time less than 24 hours later. This began with a test tow en route to the Hauraki Gulf, where the crew promptly lit her afterburners.

"It was great to get commissioning under way," said Peter Burling, the ETNZ's helmsman and a gold (2016) and silver (2012) Olympic medalist. "The boat felt really nice. We're happy with day one, but have got a lot of hard work ahead."

While it remains to be seen which team cracked the design rule to create the fastest AC75, the Kiwi's second-generation boat certainly seems to check all of the right boxes.

Speaking of Burling, the 29-year-old wunderkind helmsman was awarded the Magnus Olsson Prize 2020, which is given annually by the Mange Olsson Foundation, for Burling's contributions to the sport of sailing. It should be noted that, in addition to his Olympic campaigns, Burling also circumnavigated the world to a third-place finish with Team Brunel during the 2017-2018 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race (now called The Ocean Race) and won the 35th America's Cup with ETNZ in 2017 (becoming the youngest helmsman to have won the Cup).

"It's a great honor to be acknowledged by the Mange Olsson Memorial Foundation for this award," said Burling in an official statement. "Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to meet Magnus but his epic race in Ericsson 3 in the 2008-09 edition of the Ocean Race definitely inspired my round-the-world path."

Burling now joins the rarified ranks of other recipients of the Magnus Olsson Prize, including Torben Grael, Sir Ben Ainslie, Stan Honey, Santiago Lange, Grant Dalton and Carolijn Brouwer.

The next edition of The Ocean Race may still be over a distant horizon, but ocean-racing fans have been getting their fix and more as the race leaders in the 2020-2021 edition of the Vendee Globe prepare to enter the Southern Ocean.

As of this writing, skipper Charlie Dalin, sailing aboard Apivia, was leading the chase by almost 30 nautical miles, followed by Thomas Ruyant aboard LinkedOut and Jean Le Cam aboard Yes we Cam!, who was some 250-plus nautical miles astern of Ruyant, who recently had to climb his mast to contend with a broken halyard.

It's important to note, however, that former race leader Alex Thomson, sailing aboard Hugo Boss, was forced to slow down his charge southeastwards after discovering a damaged longitudinal beam in his bow section during a routine vessel check.

"The problem is fairly significant," reported Thomson in an official race video. "The central longitudinal is broken in several places. The good news is we carry so many materials to fix this kind of thing, c plates, solid panels, and even girders, we have plenty of materials to fix it and the other bit of good news is that I am not in the Southern Ocean.

"I am in the middle of the Saint Helena High and so have good conditions to be able to do the job and the other good news is I feel super positive and happy to crack on to get this job done and get back in the race as soon as possible," continued Thomson. "It could take another day or so to do the repair and the engineers and designers are absolutely confident the boat will be as strong if not stronger than before."

While this puts Thomson in an obviously disadvantaged position compared to the fleet, the 46-year-old veteran Vendee Globe racer is no stranger to comebacks, and while he has not yet won the Vendee Globe, no serious student of ocean racing would count him out of the hunt just yet. After all, a month-long steeping in the windswept waters of the Southern Ocean remains, and this is a place that Thomson knows well.

Finally, much closer to home, US Sailing recently announced that Jack Gierhart has left the organization in his role as CEO. "Jack guided the association through some challenging times, especially this past year after the pandemic forced US Sailing to pivot to meet the challenges of a new environment," said Cory Sertl, President of US Sailing, in an official press release. "Looking forward, the association is confident that change will enable us to meet our commitment to excellence."

Additionally, US Sailing announced two new and important hires as part of their strategic plan for 2021-2024. Jill Nosach will work as the organization's new chief development officer, while Heather Monoson will serve as chief financial officer.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

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