Yachting: Team NZ returns to Extreme 40 circuit

By NZ Herald staff

Photo / Brett Phibbs
Photo / Brett Phibbs

Team New Zealand will return to the Extreme 40 circuit this year as they endeavour to keep the sailing team occupied while they await details of the next America's Cup.

Contested in one-design 40-ft catamarans, the series features several top sailing teams, including one of Team New Zealand's old rivals, Alinghi, and Ben Ainslie Racing.

Skipper Dean Barker said he doesn't want to waste any time in developing the sailing team and integrating newcomes Peter Burling and Blair Tuke into the squad.

"We can't wait around until Oracle releases the Protocol for the 35th America's Cup," he said. "We need to keep developing and take every available opportunity to compete in cats."

With Burling and Tuke still juggling their Olympic 49er campaign commitments, the pair will only be available for three of the eight regattas this season. Barker will skipper five of the regattas, allowing Burling to be at the helm in the remaining events, rotating sailing squad members through other crew positions.

The team competed on the circuit in 2011 - an unforgiving introduction to the world of top-level multihull racing. Courses are tight and traffic around the marks can be heavy. Collisions and capsizes are frequent.

"Extreme 40 racing is unlike any other; the teams are very competitive, races are short, the action non-stop and split-second decisions are needed," said Barker.

Racing takes place over four days at each event: one day of open water racing followed by three days of stadium racing. If the breeze is favourable eight to 10 races can be held each day.

Barker's first Extreme 40 event was the last regatta of the 2010 series.

"It was at Almeria, Spain, and we were last."

But they learned what they had to do to become competitive in multihulls, a massive step towards the 34th America's Cup. Barker and crew soon had the measure of the boat and the opposing teams in the 2011 circuit and the crew improved with every regatta, winning the Boston event in May before training in the AC45 became the priority.

Burling and Tuke sailed in three Extreme 40 regattas last year before switching their focus to the AC45 and the Youth America's Cup, wining the regatta in September. This year their Olympic campaign will take priority but they aim to make their mark in the Extreme 40s.

This year the Extreme Sailing Series will race at eight venues: Singapore (February 20-23), Muscat, Oman (March 19-22), Qingdao (May 1-4), St Petersburg, Russia (June 26-29), Cardiff, Wales (August 22-25), Istanbul (September 11-14), The Mediterranean at a port to be announced (October 2-5), Sydney (Dec 11-14).

- NZ Herald

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