Crew enlist sailing veteran to help them understand San Francisco venue
After one of their worst performances in the team's history in their previous visit to San Francisco, Team New Zealand have one last chance to get it right.
Dean Barker's team returns to the water next week for the second round of the 2012-13 America's Cup World Series. The regatta will be the last time Emirates Team New Zealand will race in San Francisco before the real show in July next year, and there is much the Kiwi crew still have to learn about the venue.
The team had a forgettable regatta in last month's opening round of the series, finishing seventh in fleet racing and fourth in match racing, prompting a furious outburst from managing director Grant Dalton, who labelled the result the team's "worst performance since 2003".
Barker agreed his team "did not spark" at the last event and said it was vitally important they better adapt to the nuances of the San Francisco Bay course this time around.
So they've enlisted the help of top sailing consultant Dee Smith, who has more than 50 years professional experience, to help clue the team up on the venue.
"This regatta is as much about doing well in the event as it is about understanding the conditions here for next year's Louis Vuitton Cup. This is our last opportunity to sail on the course before then," said Barker.
"We plan to focus on understanding of the venue, the tidal current and the breeze and the tactical situations that arise."
While next year's Louis Vuitton challenger series and America's Cup finals will be sailed in larger-scale AC72 yachts developed by the individual teams, Team New Zealand are targeting a strong performance in the remaining AC45 regattas.
Since launching their first AC72 in July, the Kiwi team have been heavily focused on testing the giant wing-sailed catamaran, with their second boat due in the water in January.
But Barker said the team had to find a good balance between the AC72 development programme and AC45 race training.
"The team organises itself around the AC72 and there will always be a bias towards it. That's the game next year - but we really want a good result at this one," he said.
"This AC45 regatta is the only measure we have right now of skill levels relative to the other teams. It's the last event for some time and it's important for the sailing crew to achieve respectable results."
Ranked seventh in the series standings after last month's poor showing, Team New Zealand will have to qualify for the match-racing finals for the first time, having previously advanced straight through by virtue of their points.
The sailing team had replayed video footage from July's regatta, reviewing strengths and weaknesses of their performance. Barker said the team would also spend some time working on speed.
"We have been struggling a little with upwind speed against the top teams and that gets exposed in this close, tactical racing. We can't afford to give anything away."
October 2-7, San Francisco
Rankings (after last month's regatta)
1. Oracle Team USA (Jimmy Spithill)
2. Luna Rossa (Piranha)
3. Team Korea
4. Energy Team
5. Luna Rossa (Swordfish)
6. Artemis Racing (White)
7. Emirates Team New Zealand
8. Oracle Team USA (Russell Coutts)
9. Artemis Racing (Red)
10. JP Morgan BAR
11. Team China