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America's Cup: No surprises in Kiwi team for first AC40 hit-out

by Emirates Team NZ/Sail-World.com/nz 13 Sep 2023 06:41 NZST 13 September 2023
Emirates Team New Zealand to leeward of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli - America's Cup Practice - AC40 - Day 2 - Barcelona - September 2023 © America's Cup Media

Emirates Team New Zealand have named a six man sailing squad as they gear up for the first Preliminary Regatta of the 37th America’s Cup.

It will be contested, in a nine race, three day event later this week in Vilanova, 25nm along the Mediterranean coast from Barcelona, the 2024 America's Cup venue, where most of the teams are permanently based until October 31.

The regatta marks the first occasion of competitive racing since the team successfully defended the 36th America’s Cup in March 2021.

However, this time the racing will be in the four crew, AC40 foiling monohulls involving all six competing teams lining up collectively on the start line to battle it out on the Mediterranean.

Emirates Team New Zealand’s sailing line-up features the familiar faces of Peter Burling as Skipper and Helmsman, Blair Tuke and Andy Maloney as trimmers. Fourth spot is taken by co-helmsman Nathan Outteridge (AUS) who will race officially for the for the kiwi team in competitive America’s Cup racing.

Former world champions in the Olympic Finn class, Josh Junior and Sam Meech will provide backup as reserve sailors for the team. There are no grinders or cyclors on an AC40, which rely on battery power for all systems.

Apart from Outteridge, all five were part of the winning sailing crew in the 2017 and 2021 America's Cups. Outteridge, like Burling and Tuke is an Olympic Gold and Silver medalist, and multiple world champion in the 49er Olympic two-man skiff. He was helmsman of Artemis Racing, who faced Emirates Team New Zealand in the Challenger Final of the 2017 America's Cup - in what was the closest racing of the Bermuda event.

“It has been a very busy couple of months for the team here in Barcelona, but when you stop to think about the milestone of finally getting racing again, it’s a pretty significant occasion,” explained Skipper Peter Burling.

The new AC40 class, which will be used for the Puig Women’s America’s Cup and Youth America’s Cup in 2024 was designed by Emirates Team New Zealand and built by McConaghy’s yachts, with nine AC40’s now on the water across all of the America’s Cup teams. Three more are on order for undisclosed buyers.

Six AC40s will line up for Official Practice Racing on Thursday September 14th, and then three days of Official racing from September 15th-17th. . Three fleet races will be sailed on September 15 and 16. On Sunday, September 17, the Final day of racing, two fleet races will complete the qualifying series the top two teams on series points will face off in a one-off match race to find the winner of the first Preliminary regatta.

“Looking across the fleet I think it has to be the strongest line up of sailors we have seen in a very long time and this is the first chance we get to face off this cycle. We get such limited time to race the other teams, making every race critical for development of the sailing team. And the effort every team had been putting in to be ready for this event has shown that.”

“We are now just over one year from the start of racing in Barcelona, so regattas like this are key to see how the sailing teams are developing," Burling added.

"To win this regatta it is going to take a consistently high standard of sailing - both in speed and execution of maneuvers. As the AC40s have one design components only for this regatta, in the theoretical performance difference between the boats will be slight and the racing is expected to be very close. It also depends on what conditions we get in Vilanova with big waves requiring a very different skillset to flatwater," he added.

Sail-World will be carrying full coverage, including live video of the three days racing, and buildup. Racing is scheduled to start at 0130hrs NZT or 1530hrs CET.

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