Yachting: Team NZ admit Cup errors

By Dana Johannsen

Dalton takes a step back to concentrate on finance as talented young guns brought into set-up.

Peter Burling (left) and Blair Tuke (right), with team boss Grant Dalton, are the newest members of Emirates Team New Zealand. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Peter Burling (left) and Blair Tuke (right), with team boss Grant Dalton, are the newest members of Emirates Team New Zealand. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton will take a step back in the day-to-day running of the syndicate as part of plans to overhaul the management structure after a review into their failed 34th America's Cup campaign.

After a painful 2013, the revitalisation of Team New Zealand is under way with the announcement yesterday that they have signed top young Olympic sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke for the next regatta - expected to be in San Francisco in 2017.

The talented pairing, who are still committed to their 2016 Olympic campaign in the 49er, will add some much-needed youth to a team that has remained largely unchanged since the 2007 regatta in Valencia.

Dalton revealed that the changes would not be restricted to the sailing team with the management of the syndicate also modified.

Chief operating officer Kevin Shoebridge will assume a more hands-on role, with Dalton to slot into a director-type role, his key responsibility for now "finding a way to pay for the bloody thing".

Skipper Dean Barker will lead the entire sailing programme, and Nick Holroyd will again head the design team.

The move to flatten the organisational structure was prompted by a review into the 9-8 loss to defenders Oracle, which found Team New Zealand's decision-making was compromised by having one man at the top making all the calls.

"We have to expand the way we make decisions, because that was where we made a mistake in San Francisco. We closed in too much, we stayed very fluid [in Auckland] but we closed into a very process-focused environment in San Francisco and we weren't able to respond quick enough because of that," said Dalton.

"There's so much experience within the organisation that the way we make decisions needs to be a bit smarter. I need to take a good look at myself too, you know."

Dalton said key decisions would now be made by an executive group which included himself, Shoebridge, Barker, wing trimmer and multihull specialist Glenn Ashby, Holroyd and designer Daniel Bernasconi.

Newcomer Burling expects learning the inner workings of such a large sailing operation will be the biggest challenge of joining the Kiwi syndicate.

"One of the things about the America's Cup is there is a lot more going on in the background than a lot of people realise with all the technology and design side of it. As soon as protocol comes out it will all pretty much kick off.

"There's a lot to learn on that side for us but I'm really looking forward to getting involved with all the technology and engineering of the boat," said Burling who is halfway through an engineering degree at Auckland University.

The Olympic silver medallists and current world champions in the 49er class were approached by other America's Cup teams after last year's regatta, but Burling said they never really entertained any of those offers.

If the new protocol allows, Team New Zealand will look to field two AC45 boats on the world series circuit, with Burling to steer one of them.

The talented young sailor, who went to his first Olympics at the age of 17, is seen as the natural successor to Barker but whether that transition will take place in the next Cup cycle is still unclear.

Dalton said that at this point Barker's position as skipper was not in doubt, "but just like rugby, that can change".

"I'm expecting Dean to be skipper [in 2017], absolutely, but these guys are going to give him a push," said Dalton. "Whether Dean is skipper or not, he will be heavily involved with the next campaign."

Although the intent is clear that Team New Zealand will compete in the 35th America's Cup, they cannot confirm their entry until Oracle and Team Australia - the challenger of record - reveal the protocol for the next event. Dalton said that without any certainty about the shape of the next regatta, he was unable to pitch to sponsors.

Peter Burling
Tauranga Yacht Club

* Born: 01/01/1991
* 11th in 470 class at 2008 Olympics (with Carl Evans)
* Silver in the 49er class at 2012 Olympics (with Blair Tuke)
* 2013 world champion in 49er class
* Skippered NZL Sailing Team to victory in the 2013 Red Bull Youth America's Cup
* 2013 New Zealand sailor of the year.

Blair Tuke
Kerikeri Cruising Club

* Born: 27/07/1989
* 2009 29er world champion
* Silver in the 49er class at 2012 Olympics (with Peter Burling)
* 2013 world champion in 49er class
* Tactician for NZL Sailing Team that won the 2013 Red Bull Youth America's Cup
* 2013 New Zealand sailor of the year and 2013 national A-class champion.

- NZ Herald

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