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America's Cup: Kiwi gain from Swiss SailGP skipper change-out

by Richard Gladwell, NZ 18 Mar 06:33 PDT 19 March 2024
Nathan Outteridge, co-driver and sailing advisor of Switzerland SailGP Team, helps carry the team's Doyle Sails back across the Technical Base - SailGP Denmark © Jon Buckle/SailGP

America's Cup Defender Emirates Team New Zealand has picked up an unexpected benefit from the announcement that Swiss SailGP helmsman Sebastien Schneiter will quit the circuit for the remainder of Season 4 to concentrate on the 2024 Olympic Sailing Regatta.

Nathan Outteridge, one of Emirates Team New Zealand's two co-helmsmen, will take his place.

Outteridge's step-up into the Swiss SailGP helmsman's spot will give the America's Cup Defenders two helmsmen competing in the SailGP circuit —the only America's Cup team to have both its helms exposed to this level of white-hot competition in the six-month run-up to the commencement of Cup hostilities in August.

Schneiter (28) finished 14th in the 49er two-man skiff event at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, sailing with crew Lucien Cujean, who has since been recruited as part of the sailing crew on the Swiss America's Cup Challenger Alinghi Red Bull Racing. However, since that split, Schneiter has dramatically climbed the 49er rankings, finishing third in the 2023 World Championships and Olympic Qualifiers at The Hague in 2023 and sixth at last week's 2024 World Championships in Lanzarote.

Those places certainly put the 28-year-old Swiss into medal contention for the 2024 Olympic Regatta, which will be contested in Marseille in late July. In the just-completed 2024 Worlds, Schneiter, crewed by Arno de Planta, finished in the top five in eight races in the 17-race series. He placed third in the final 10-boat Medal race. Clearly, with some finishing work, the Swiss crew is showing good medal potential for Marseille.

Outteridge became a sailor of fortune after his native Australia could not put together an America's Cup team, competing now for six countries in the Olympics, SailGP, and America's Cup.

He has won multiple world championships and is an Olympic Gold and Silver medalist in the 49er class. He sailed the 2013 and 2017 America's Cups as helmsman for the Swedish team Artemis Racing before sitting out the 2021 America's Cup in the TV commentary booth. Under America's Cup rules, that stint made him eligible to sail for Emirates Team New Zealand in the 2024 America's Cup.

He sailed for two seasons as skipper of the Japan SailGP team and has been working with the Swiss SailGP team over the past 18 months in coaching and sailing roles. In SailGP Season 4, Outteridge has been a one-regatta stand-in helm for the Denmark and New Zealand SailGP teams.

He will start the first of his five SailGP events with the Swiss team this weekend in Christchurch and will end with the Season 4 Final in San Francisco, which will be sailed at the end of July. That schedule gives almost a clear month before the start of the third America's Cup Preliminary Regatta which will be sailed at the Cup venue in Barcelona in AC75s, starting August 22, 2024.

Emirates Team New Zealand has the option of sailing in the Round Robin phase of the Louis Vuitton Cup or Challenger Selection Series, which gets underway on August 29, 2024. It will not return to the competition until the 37th Match for the America's Cup beginning on October 12, 2024.

Outteridge was the helmsman of Sweden's Artemis Racing team in the 2017 America's Cup in Bermuda. He sailed the then AC50 wingsailed foiling catamarans, which have been adapted for use in the SailGP circuit. Artemis Racing contested the Challenger Final in Bermuda against Emirates Team New Zealand, in what proved to be the closest event of the 2017 America's Cup.

Outteridge's elevation to Swiss helmsman means the core of the Emirates Team New Zealand America's Cup sailing crew regularly competes in the ten-team SailGP circuit. The other three, Peter Burling, Blair Tuke and Andy Maloney, compete in the New Zealand SailGP entry. The four regularly sail together on the Emirates Team New Zealand AC40 test boat and formed the crew to compete in the two AC40 Preliminary Events in Vilanova and Jeddah, where the Kiwis placed second and first in the regattas contested by the six America's Cup teams.

Interestingly, Outteridge's increased involvement in the SailGP circuit comes after two veterans pulled back to focus on the upcoming America's Cup. In November 2023, twice America's Cup champion and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill announced the end of his involvement and sold his financial interest in the US SailGP team.

In early January 2024, INEOS Britannia skipper and CEO Ben Ainslie announced he was stepping aside from his competitive responsibilities on the Emirates Great Britain SailGP team to focus on the British America's Cup team, of which the four-time Olympic Gold medalist remains as skipper and co-helmsman.

Outteridge's SailGP commitments are not expected to impact Emirates Team New Zealand's Cup preparations, as their testing schedule already includes Burling, Tuke and Maloney's participation in the remaining five SailGP regattas in the sailing and testing calendar.

Emirates Team New Zealand's America's Cup AC75 race boat is believed to be in the Emirates Team New Zealand base for final commissioning, and is expected to be launched in early to mid-April.

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