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AC40s shaping 2024 America's Cup for Emirates Team New Zealand

by Emirates Team NZ and Sail-World.com/nz 26 Jun 2023 16:21 PDT
Emirates Team New Zealand - LEQ12 and AC40 - Day 31, June 7, 2023 © Adam Mustill / America's Cup

With Emirates Team New Zealand’s latest AC40 testing, development and race training block in Auckland now wrapped up, the team are heading north to quickly settle into their Barcelona base and roll Te Rehutai out to get a first taste of sailing an AC75 at the venue for the 37th America’s Cup.

Rewinding the clock, since the inaugural sailing of the first AC40 back in September 2022, Emirates Team New Zealand has had over 70 days sailing their two AC40s in ‘one design’ mode as well as specific systems, foils and design verification in ‘LEQ12’ mode.

It is no small logistical operation for the dedicated shore crew to be running two boat programs at times, but every day the design team have gained valuable performance insight while the sailing team have relished the multitude of hours spent on the exciting new class.

“The AC40 is such a cool little boat to sail and I know most people think 40 foot is not that small, but in comparison to the 75, it's like a little toy. It's nimble, it's light, it's very responsive and it requires a high level of concentration.” said helmsman Nathan Outteridge

Fellow helmsman and skipper Peter Burling agrees, “It feels like you're almost driving a go kart rather than like a race car, like the AC75 Te Rehutai. That means it’s pretty interesting around the starts, like how hard you can throw the boat around, the manoeuvres, the G-forces where it's moving around and while you’re not quite the same top speed as the AC75, you're not miles away.”

The relationship and critical communications required between dual helmsmen and crew has been a focal point for some intense boat on boat race training for both crews. Burling, Outteridge, Tuke and Maloney have been squaring off against Josh Junior, Marcus Hansen, Sam Meech as well as introducing new helming talent rotating between Liv Mackay and Leo Takahashi.

The second crew provides some formidable competition, “We call ourselves the A-Team.” explained Josh Junior.

“We definitely go out there and try to beat them, but that's what they need. You need a team where you can challenge each other and continue to push hard. We've got a lot of depth in our team to be able to race two boats and to be able to really push those guys to the max.”

Andy Maloney is well accustomed to competing on the water with his old mate Josh Junior. Both participated in a joint Olympic program in the single handed Finn class aimed at Tokyo2021. Along the way both won the prestigious Finn Gold Cup (the Finn class world championship), they had an agreement that while only one could be selected to sail in the Olympics, the other would go as coach. In the end Josh Junior got the selector's nod ahead of Andy Maloney who supported from the coach boat.

“Racing against the other boat it's really kept us on our toes as a team. Being able to throw it around in the pre starts, practice different routes, practice different manoeuvres. You head out on the water each day in a pretty friendly way but you can always sort of tell who's had the upper hand on the day.”

Competition never stops among competitors.

But the AC40’s aren’t just about the here and the now. They are about the future of both the team and the America’s Cup and harnessing the next generation.

“The AC40 is actually providing the stepping stone for the next America's Cup sailors. It’s not about being the strongest person. It's actually about being the best yachtie, regardless of whether you’re tall or short or heavier or lighter. If you can sail an AC40 really well then you can definitely sail an AC75 well.” explained Emirates Team New Zealand designer Elise Beavis, who along with Josh Junior is currently managing the selection of the Emirates Team New Zealand Women’s and Youth teams.

“We are going to bring in more youth and more women into our team, they’re the future of Emirates Team New Zealand” said Junior.

“By having them join our two boat program and really raise their skills like we've done with Liv and Leo, we'll continue to do that with other sailors. This is a big part of our program.

Emirates Team New Zealand’s one design AC40 ‘Te Kakahi’ is now being dismantled and loaded onto its custom shipping flat rack ready for its own trip north to Barcelona ready for the first official races of the 37th America’s Cup at the first preliminary regatta in Vilanova i La Geltru between September 14-17th.

“Going into Vilanova is going to be pretty exciting.” said Sailing coach Ray Davies.

“With the whole one design element it is all down to the sailors skills. So really it comes down to who put the most time into understanding these boats. We really get to showcase the skills of the sailors, the four on board, how they communicate and how they deal with pressure. So, we have been trying to create that same pressure situation and it will be fascinating to see which team comes out on top.”

With eight AC40s now delivered across the six America’s Cup teams, the preliminary regatta will be the first true test of race form.

But there are about to be plenty more ‘firsts’ in the next couple of months in Barcelona, as teams all start hitting the same patch of water and analysing each other’s each and every move.

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