Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Yachting: America's Cup teams get chance to air views

Team New Zealand's boat Camper. Photo / Dean Purcell
Team New Zealand's boat Camper. Photo / Dean Purcell

Some frank discussions over the direction of the next America's Cup will take place in Auckland tomorrow, when the competitors gather for the first time this year.

America's Cup Race Management (ACRM) chief executive Iain Murray is in town to meet representatives from the defender and each of the challengers.

Held every two months or so, the competitor forums are an opportunity for the teams to voice any concerns that have arisen and vote on issues affecting the event.

But history has shown that getting all teams to agree to anything to do with the America's Cup is extremely rare and Team New Zealand operations manager Kevin Shoebridge admits the forums can get heated.

"They can be fairly robust discussions. Everyone has got their own idea of what is right, and they don't usually mesh - but it's a necessity for sure," he said. "It's an opportunity to get any issues out there and try and get them resolved with everyone sitting around the table."

While team management will be sitting around the table, the Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa crews will be hitting the water in their AC45s for a series of training runs.

The two teams, which have a collaboration agreement for next year's event, will train together for the first time this week before holding an official race series next weekend.

Despite Luna Rossa taking possession of their AC45 only two weeks ago, Shoebridge still expects the series, which will be organised by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, to be extremely competitive.

"They haven't been sailing that long, but they are a very experienced multihull group, a lot of those guys have come off the extreme 40 circuit and have been sailing with other teams in the world series as well.

"I don't think there is any doubt that they are going to be any good."

Shoebridge said it was not a case of Team New Zealand helping the Italian team get up to speed with the new wing-sailed catamarans. He said the racing would ensure Team New Zealand stayed sharp before the America's Cup world series, which would resume in Naples in early April.

"I think it's very easy to get caught up in the mindset that you think you're helping the other person.

"But the reality is all the sailing that we do with these guys is going to help us get better. So I think it will drag us both up the fleet.

"You can't train properly by yourself, it just has a different intensity and a different feel about it when it's real."

The two teams will also test out a new wing extension for regatta organisers this week.

Each of the standard platform AC45s will be fitted out with a wing extension this season, with a further 4.5m added to the wing from last year.

The addition has been made to give the boats more power in very light air, which they are expected to encounter at a couple of the venues this year.

- NZ Herald

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