Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Yachting: Down time worry for Team NZ's Cup foray

Last Thursday's tornado certainly tested boat in heavy conditions

Dalton has learnt from previous failed campaigns that there is no way of truly knowing what shape the team is in until they take the startline. Photo / NZPA
Dalton has learnt from previous failed campaigns that there is no way of truly knowing what shape the team is in until they take the startline. Photo / NZPA

Team New Zealand may be ahead of the pack in the testing and development game, but syndicate boss Grant Dalton is still not comfortable with the position they're in.

While the three other teams - America's Cup defender Oracle and challengers Luna Rossa and Artemis - are in the early days of testing their first boat for next year's America's Cup, Emirates Team New Zealand have packed their super-powered AC72 catamaran away in the shed having exhausted their 30 allowable sail days.

Some parts of the first design will be cannibalised for their second boat, but NZL01 is largely destined to become a very expensive white elephant.

The team must now wait until February 1 until they can relaunch their second version AC72, complete with modifications, which will race in San Francisco.

Dalton is mindful while they are sitting still over the next six-week period, other teams will be gaining ground.

Italian team Luna Rossa, who bought the rights to the design of Team New Zealand's first boat and are training in Auckland over the summer, are the only other team likely to get close to using their 30 sail days. But looking further down the track Dalton worries about the 5-6 weeks they will lose while their boat and operations are shipped to San Francisco.

"We're ahead of the ballgame in the sense that we've been sailing more, so we've learnt more. You can't sort of bull**** your way around that one. But we have got that period of down time where they will catch up," said Dalton.

"Between now and July we have a 12-week period where we're not sailing these things at all."

Dalton has learnt from previous failed campaigns that there is no way of truly knowing what shape the team is in until they take the startline.

"Going into the Volvo race we were feeling really good. The guys were in good shape, we had a great team, the organisation was running well, the sponsors were great - all those things stacked up. But the boat was slow. So it's just impossible to know. Everything feels right now, the signs are good, but there is no way to judge whether the boat is going to be fast enough until the event."

What they do know after their 30 sail days is that their super-powered AC72 catamaran is reliable.

Some rivals of the Kiwi team rather sniffily suggested their boat hadn't been tested in heavy conditions.

But the Kiwi team unwittingly got to test their AC72 in the upper limits of the wind range, when they took to the water last Thursday - the same day the weather system hit Auckland stirring up a devastating tornado.

"It's something we've been careful about talking about because it was so horrifically tragic for the people of Auckland," said Dalton.

"We expected a windy day. The head engineer had said 'let's load it today, we really want to test it under peak loads'. We'd done a couple of runs and when we got nearer to [Tiritiri Matangi], basically that thing spun up."

Team NZ weather guru Roger "Clouds" Badham advised the team to hightail it back to base. It made for a white-knuckle ride, but the boat stood up to the bow-burying conditions.

"We had a pretty boisterous ride back, but in doing so showed that the wind limits that have been set up very, very high for the event, are achievable with the right design."

- NZ Herald

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