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Emirates Team NZ reflect on their 35 year involvement in the America's Cup

by Richard Gladwell/ 8 Oct 00:21 NZDT 8 October 2020
Emirates Team New Zealand - Challenger Final, Day 2 - 35th America's Cup - Day 15 - Bermuda June 11, 2017 © Richard Gladwell

At 2.33pm on the afternoon of June 26, 2017, Emirates Team New Zealand crossed the finish line in Bermuda's Great Sound to win the premier trophy in sailing. The 8-1 win in Bermuda was the third for the most successful professional sailing team in history.

New Zealand's America's Cup legacy was born in late March 1984, when Marcel Fachler, a Sydney based, Belgian born business man lodged a Challenge with the Royal Perth Yacht Club, on behalf of a New Zealand club - the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

The Squadron was unaware of Fachler's move but took up his offer of funding a feasibility study and establish an organisational framework for a Challenge for the then 133-year-old trophy.

That started a 35-year involvement by New Zealand, which has spanned three iterations of the team.

The first was New Zealand Challenge, headed by Sir Michael Fay from 1987 to 1992, which also covered the "Big Boat" Challenge of 1988. New Zealand fell in love with the America's Cup in Fremantle and all its drama.

That love affair continued with the 1995-2000 Team New Zealand led by Sir Peter Blake and Alan Sefton, who twice won yachting's premier trophy. Emirates Team New Zealand is the current team and since March 2003 has been led by Grant Dalton and Kevin Shoebridge, winning for the third time in June 2017.

Although New Zealand is the smallest country to have been contested the America's Cup, the Kiwis have been the most innovative. First the fibreglass yacht in 1987, the 120ft Big Boat in 1988, the tandem keel in 1992, and the foiling AC72 in 2013.

NZL-32, the winner in 1995, was simply a very well designed yacht which took her synergy from a lot of small design and engineering nuances, along with an outstanding crew, and a superbly led team to produce New Zealand's first win.

The same formula was repeated for the second win in 2000. Key design innovations included the "Ice Breaker" bow to get more speed from a longer effective sailing length plus the Millennium rig from Southern Spars together with a top sailing crew and a well-led team.

New Zealand bought foiling to the 2013 America's Cup and changed the sport. 2017 saw a repeat of the 1995 and 2000 formula - design and engineering innovation, a top sailing crew and a well-led team.

The America's Cup does have its dark side. Learning to cope, innovate and succeed in the face of adversity is another of the vital lessons of success in the America's Cup - and none more so for the win in Bermuda on June 26, 2017.

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