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America's Cup: Outteridge joins ETNZ, Burling and Tuke's future uncertain

by Richard Gladwell/ 27 Oct 2021 16:35 PDT 28 October 2021
Nathan Outteridge, Bermuda, June 2017 © Richard Gladwell - / nz

Emirates Team New Zealand have announced the signing of Nathan Outteridge (35yrs) to join their sailing team for the 37th America's Cup.

The signing was announced this morning on the website.

The Australian born, now New Zealand resident, Olympic Gold and Silver medalist was part of the commentary team for the 36th America's Cup. As such, he complies with the NZ residency requirements that are expected to be applied for the 37th America's Cup.

The team given has no indication on whether the 2021 Olympic Silver medalists, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke have been re-signed for the America's Cup Defenders, or how Outteridge will be worked into the existing line-up.

Certainly, the signing of Outteridge gets a hot property out of the America's Cup market, either for a challenge from an Australian club, via an Australian or international backer, or as part of the sailing team for another challenger. But his involvement with another team is conditional on AC37 residency requirements being met.

Outteridge's signing also resolves Emirates Team NZ's long-standing issue with not having a reserve helm. The difficulty lies in the fact that the team can only launch one new AC75, and regardless of whether Burling or Outteridge are selected as the helmsman for the Match, both have to get a reasonable amount of time on the helm.

Their other alternative is to take a leaf out of the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli setup and run separate helmsman on each side of the boat and avoid the cross-tack ballet as the helmsman switches sides during a tack or a gybe. That option would have to be explored in two-boat race practice.

Outteridge brings some useful experience in match racing, gained while recuperating after being seriously injured in a car crash in 2005. That opens the option for the Kiwis to be pitted against the Australians if the team purchases two of the new AC40 class that will be used in the America's Cup Preliminary events.

Or they may pit one AC40 against the near 40ft test boat Te Kahu, if it is recommissioned. If more match racing expertise is required, then it would not be a surprise to see former world match racing champion Phil Robertson (NZL) signed for the Kiwi team. The big surprise from the 36th America's Cup was that the high-speed AC75's in the Match itself were reasonably close in speed, and a strong performance in the starting box was essential to notch up a race win. That prerequisite was made doubly so in the lighter winds that prevailed for the Auckland regatta, where the teams realised the significant effects of rig turbulence - both of their own making and from their opponent.

One issue is for certain that Emirates Team New Zealand can't continue with the same sailing build-up they used for AC36, where they had the option to run two AC75's once the Prada Cup got under way but didn't.

They could have launched a second test boat similar to Te Kahu and used that for two boat practice but didn't. Instead, they elected to run a mix of simulator training and contested practice using a team chase boat as an opponent. They had used the same approach for Bermuda with limited success - but there they also had the opportunity to sail in the Challenger Selection Series and get some vital racing experience in the AC50 foiling wingsailed multihull.

In Auckland, veteran match racer Jimmy Spithill owned the startline in most of the racing for the Prada Cup and America's Cup. The Kiwis only got his measure mid-series when the score was 3-3 after three days of racing. At that point, they began to use their brains trust of two Finn Gold Cup winners and two Olympic Gold medalists to make sure they were in command by the first mark. Clearly, it is an area where Emirates Team New Zealand can make a gain.

For reasons that are not entirely clear Burling and Tuke issued a media statement in mid-October that they had not signed for Emirates Team New Zealand. At the time, they were just about to re-enter a quarantine facility in Auckland for a 14-day stay after returning from being away, since late June, for Tokyo2020 and SailGP regattas. The pair have had a crowded sailing schedule with the America's Cup, the Tokyo2020, and several events on the SailGP circuit, plus they are promoting their LiveOcean charitable conservation trust.

Those events all line up again in 2024 - the year the next America's Cup is expected to be held, in Europe, with the Paris2024 Olympics about a month or less later. If the regatta is in 2025/6 - four or five years is normal when there is a change of venue, then there is less of an issue. The Ocean Race is due to start in October 2022, there has been no indication if Burling and Tuke intend to compete in their second round the world race, or if they have other projects pending.

Their Sail GP regatta commitment is expected to consist of eight regattas in the Season, with the option to substitute crew as happened in 2021. In a Road for Gold online seminar last Friday, Burling admitted that the deferral of the Tokyo2020 Olympic regatta for 12 months put a lot more pressure into their racing and training schedules than had been intended for all three major events.

That schedule pressure probably counted against them in Tokyo2020 where they looked to be only human, losing the Gold Medal on a tiebreaker, after tying on points with a British crew whose sole focus for 2020 and 2021 was the Tokyo2020 49er event.

Burling and Tuke have been linked with the new Alinghi team, backed by twice America's Cup winner Ernesto Bertarelli who is believed to be in preparation to lodge a Challenge for the 37th America's Cup. However, for the Kiwi pair to sail for a country other than New Zealand, they would need to comply with the nationality requirements of the Protocol for AC37 due to be announced in just over a couple of weeks.

Their other option is to do something more with the SailGP circuit led by five-times America's Cup winner Russell Coutts and backed by two-times America's Cup winner and San Francisco based software mogul Larry Ellison.

Nathan Outteridge switched from the 49er class to the Mixed Multihull event for Tokyo2020, after his regular crew Iain Jensen signed with the British America's Cup team for the 2017 and 2021 America's Cups. Sailing with his sister Haylee in the Nacra17, the Outteridges were not selected for the Tokyo2020 Australian team, in place of the 2016 Olympic Silver medal winning crew, who finished sixth in Enoshima.

Outteridge was the training partner with Peter Burling and Blair Tuke for the 2012 Olympic Regatta in Weymouth, where he and crew Iain Jensen, won the Gold medal with Burling and Tuke winning the Silver. The Kiwi pair returned the favour in the 2016 Olympic regatta in the 49er class, winning Gold, with Outteridge and Jensen willing the Silver.

In a stellar sailing career, Outteridge has won nine world championships in several classes including the 29er, 420, International Moth and 49er. He won two World Sailing Youth titles the 29er skiff and 420 dinghy classes.

In January 2005 he was involved in a serious car crash en route to the Sail Melbourne Regatta , where he was due to have his first regatta in the 49er class. Many believed the accident would cut short a very promising sailing career.

However, Outteridge was able to recuperate successfully and resumed sailing in the Youth Match racing circuit before getting back into the 49er class and placing 5th in the 2008 Olympic regatta.

He joined the Swedish based Artemis Racing Team for the 2013 America's Cup in San Francisco, but after a tragic accident on their first AC72, the team was eliminated in the Challenger Selection Series.

In 2017, Outteridge and Peter Burling fought out the Challenger Final of the Louis Vuitton Trophy to select the Challenger for the 35th America's Cup in Bermuda. In the most keenly contested event of the regatta, Outteridge sailing Artemis Racing was beaten 5-2 by Emirates Team New Zealand. One of those wins for NZ was by a margin of just 1sec, and another was handed to the Kiwis after Outteridge slipped overboard during a gybe.

After the regatta it transpired the Artemis Racing had beaten the Defender Oracle Team USA in 15 practice races before the start of the Louis Vuitton Trophy, and the Swedish challenger added to more wins beating Oracle Team USA twice in the Round Robin phase of the Challenger Selection Series.

Since the 2017 America's Cup, Outteridge was one of the first skippers to move into the SailGP circuit, sailing with a mixed Japanese crew, he lies in third place overall in Season 2, ahead of America's Cup rivals INEOS Britannia in 4th overall and the Burling-skippered NZSailGP team lying in fifth overall, with two events left in the season.

Outteridge is the second Australian born to join the Emirates Team New Zealand sailing team. He has a long-standing friendship with wingsail-trimmer and 2017 skipper, Glenn Ashby who was part of the sailing crew for the America's Cups held in Bermuda and Auckland, who is understood to have been re-signed for the next America's Cup.

Burling and Tuke are expected to wait until the Protocol is announced for the 37th America's Cup on November 17th before deciding whether to remain with Emirates Team NZ or accept another team that can accommodate them or step away from the America's Cup altogether.

It is also believed that former and current Finn Gold Cup champions, Josh Junior and Andy Maloney are close to formally re-signing with the team, and that being so, it will be standing room only down the back of the Emirates Team NZ AC75.

The crew will only really start to take shape once the Protocol and the Class Rule are promulgated, and it can be determined, whether there will be a Code Zero on the Version 2 AC75, and whether the limitations on use of electrical power remain, or if these are eased to reduce the number of grinders on board, who are typically not sailors, and are there to generate hydraulic pressure for the sail and other controls.

While it would seem likely that if the AC75 remained in its current configuration that the 6ft bowsprit would come off and the boat would effectively become an AC69.

Or the rig could be reduced in size, meaning that a Code Zero would be essential to get the (still) AC75 foiling. A reduced rig size would also improve the AC75 capability at the top end of the wind range, and also reduce the heeling moment in some extreme situations. It should be remembered that while ETNZ won the America's Cup, they also had the most capsizes - even in light winds - and reducing that propensity would be a step forward.

The Protocol will be published in just over two weeks.

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