Q&A: PJ not lost for words at climax of Cup

Peter Montgomery cautious as Cup racing goes down to the wire

Peter Montgomery (right) with NewstalkZB analyst Craig Monk. Montgomery has sailed on several Whitbread/Volvo boats.
Peter Montgomery (right) with NewstalkZB analyst Craig Monk. Montgomery has sailed on several Whitbread/Volvo boats.

Q&A with Peter Montgomery, America's Cup commentator for NewstalkZB and Radio Sport

Q: You've commentated at 11 America's Cup regattas. Which one has been your favourite and why?

America's Cup 29, San Diego 1995. The campaigns of 1987, 1988 and 1992 ended in frustration and disappointment. But on the way, valuable lessons from Dennis Conner were applied in 1995 and are still relevant in 2013.

Work to what you have and don't waste your time and money. Don't dream or wish what you don't or can't have.

The America's Cup is a game of change.

Peter Blake led an outstanding campaign in 1995 with NZL 32 Black Magic that was successful and fun. And the America's Cup became New Zealand's Cup.

The welcome home to Team New Zealand, in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin was unprecedented, the crowds still the biggest since the celebrations at the end of World War II.

Q: What is it about Dean Barker that makes him so good?

He is an excellent helmsman. Very good at driving the boat.

His skill saved New Zealand Aotearoa from rolling in Race 8. Dean is a team player and has a special relationship with tactician Ray Davies. They have known each other from their days at Murrays Bay Yacht Club since they were 8-year-olds. They even finish each other's sentences.

Q: What sort of boats do you think should be used in the next America's Cup regatta?

A big monohull with a swing keel. Say a TP52 on steroids or an inshore version of the Volvo 70.

Yes, this match racing has been spectacular and exciting, but the cost will still deter challengers in the future. Plus ETNZ and Oracle have so much knowledge and experience in the AC72s they are so far ahead.

Q: Why challenge to spend a lot of money to get a thumping?

If you could grant Mayor Len Brown one wish to improve Auckland city before the defence of the America's Cup, what would that be?Finish the rail loop and stop Ports of Auckland expanding.

Come to San Francisco and experience the wonderful waterfront now the port is across the bay at Oakland. The Embarcadero is for the people of San Francisco, not transport operators.

Q: You are better known as a yachting broadcaster than a sailor, but what was your sailing career highlight? Was it winning the Bernard Fergusson Trophy and being named Yachtsman of the Year in 1990?

Yes, that was an honour and a highlight.

But it has been a privilege to sail on several Whitbread/Volvo boats with Peter Blake and Grant Dalton as skippers. The 1984 Sydney-Hobart was a rugged test as we thrashed and bashed our way south. Two-thirds of the fleet withdrew. Life was lost for the first time in the race. It remains the three worst days of my life.

But I still have a twisted sense of satisfaction to have endured that nightmare and been on the winning boat Lion New Zealand. Crew members aboard were Grant Dalton, CEO ETNZ, Kevin Shoebridge, operations director for ETNZ, and Tony Rae, ETNZ legend.

Q: What do you sail these days?

Whatever boat I'm invited on.

I am sailing on the classic yacht Rainbow in an upcoming charity regatta.

Q: When you aren't sailing or commentating how do you relax?

I am still a member of the NewstalkZB radio rugby team in Auckland, I love it. On the sideline is a privileged position. The things I could tell you ...

I love spending time with my family, music, reading and walking.

Q: You're a life member of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club but what club is your favourite to call in for a drink and a yarn?

It was an honour from Royal Bermuda, they have only 12 life members. I am also a proud life member of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and patron of the Ponsonby Cruising Club and Torbay Sailing Club.

Q: Despite being a public figure in New Zealand, very little is known about you personally. Do you have family and where do you live now?

Good, that is the way I like it. During my broadcasting career I have tried to tell the story, not be the story. Never underestimate your audience.

I have a wonderful family, my wife, Claudia, and two adult children, Kate and John.

Q: New Zealanders will always remember you for those famous words in 1995, "The America's Cup is now New Zealand's Cup." What phrase will your family best remember?

I haven't asked them as I hope to be around for a bit longer, but perhaps, the name of a song, or lyrics from artists as diverse as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, the Beatles, Queen or Led Zeppelin et al. Singing ...

Joy to the world / All the boys and girls, now / Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea / Joy to you and me.

Q: Have you got a phrase lined up if we win the Cup again?

No, but perhaps I should start giving it some thought.

Q: Why have Oracle become so much more competitive in recent days? Pinpoint the areas you've identified.

Oracle have been very impressive since Race 8. Where did that come from? Why leave it so long?

A man in the field tells me Oracle took the bowsprit off and redistributed the 300kg around the rest of the boat, as well as shortening the foils.

We can all see they are on the pace now, 32 knots foiling on the wind. And don't underestimate space round the heads of the crew.

Legendary Herald writer T.P. McLean once told me that top sport is a study of people under stress. Something has happened, because the crew are sailing like a team co-ordinated rather than a group who have not met each other.

Anything can still happen ... I am mindful of the nosedive and then the side roll ETNZ did. Damage and reliability is the key.

Q: Your prediction for a final score?

Whoever gets to nine points first will win. This really is a contest and enthralling sporting theatre. Can ETNZ get one win before OTUSA get eight?

Yes, but ... one more time ... damage and reliability is the key.

- NZ Herald

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