Andy Anderson helmed the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron during last year's America's Cup while also heading one of Auckland's largest architectural firms, Jasmax. The 58-year-old backs the council's preferred Wynyard Basin option for the next cup.
1 How did you become commodore of the Royal NZ Yacht Squadron and did you make many changes to the prestigious 150-year old club?
I started out crewing on boats. You'd be invited back to the club afterwards and over time invited to become a member. Eventually I joined the club's 'inner sanctum'. As commodore I was very keen to break down the barriers of perceived stuffiness.
The club's a big business now with over 3,000 members and 30 staff. It can't just be run by volunteers so we've made a new business plan to divide the workload. I've since ended up as President of the International Council of Yacht Clubs. I must have something wrong with me - I keep putting my hand up.
2 Was it hard to juggle your roles as the managing principal of Jasmax and the Royal NZ Yacht Squadron at the same time?
It's amazing how symbiotic the two roles have been. I was able to affect change a lot quicker at Jasmax thanks to the skills I'd learnt at the Squadron and vice versa. I found I couldn't do both roles as the same time so I was happy to pass the baton at Jasmax to focus on the commodoreship.
3 Where were you when Team New Zealand lost the America's Cup in San Francisco in 2013?
I was down at the club every morning facing the media. They kept asking, "Are you going to crack the champagne now?" I was saying no because you know as a sailor you've never won until you've crossed the finish line. Team NZ's winning campaign really stemmed from that agonising loss. To come from 8-1 up to lose 9-8 is unprecedented.
It just destroyed the team's morale. In fairness Jimmy Spithill's team learnt fast from seeing how we were sailing and they applied a lot more resource to it. A big component of the Cup is making sure that you've got adequate funding. The Kiwis operated on significantly less that what Larry Ellison did.
4 What was your role in last year's America's Cup?
As commodore it was my signature on the challenge that went to Bermuda. We were able to get in behind Team New Zealand and offer support through funding connections. My two year term as commodore ended before the win but even though it wasn't on my watch it's a fantastic achievement to reflect on.
We've set up a high performance youth programme and bought a couple of foiling catamarans from Team NZ for them to train on.
5 What do you believe were the key factors in Team New Zealand's win last year?
The design team approached it with fresh eyes and a clean sheet of paper. They worked out the ergonomics of how you get from one side of the boat to another and where you need power, because it was all about creating power.
Another component was the element of surprise bringing in cycles to replace the pedestal-grinders late so no one else could readily copy them. We've probably got the best combination of sailors in the world at multi-hull sailing with Glen Ashby, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke.
6 What location do you think is best for the next America's Cup?
It would be great to have it in Auckland rather than Italy. That will need the agreement of all parties from the squadron and Team New Zealand to local and central government. I believe it's best to utilise existing infrastructure where possible.
The council's preferred Wynyard Basin option does just this, even though it requires extensions to Halsey, Hobson and Wynyard wharves to accommodate the team's needs. The other option, Wynyard Point, may not be possible within the time frame because of existing leases and required remediation work.
7 Growing up on a farm in North Canterbury, did you always want to be an architect?
No, I probably would've been a farmer if I was healthier but I had bad asthma. Being allergic to pollen wasn't that great on a farm. I spent quite a bit of time in hospital. I took up surfing to develop my lungs. However it's great because as one door closes another opens.
I left school in sixth form to become a draftsman. After a few years I packed up all my worldly possessions and did a surfing trip around the East Cape to arrive at architecture school in Auckland.
8 What was the best thing you learned at architecture school?
A field trip we did through America and Europe in 1981 was defining. Seeing all the stuff you were learning in books in reality cemented my love for architecture. As students you have a fair bit of bravado.
We'd rock up to places, knock on the door and say "Can we have a wander around your house?" It's amazing how many buildings we got into that way. Richard Neutra's wife invited us into his modernist home in LA and read a couple of his love letters while we sat looking out over the reflecting rooftop pond. It was pretty special. It was on that trip that we saw the Pope get shot.
9 How close were you to Pope John Paul II when he was shot in 1981?
We were about 15 metres away; behind the gunman. My colleague actually took a photo of the gunman and the Pope at the moment of shooting but we didn't realise until we got back home a month later.
We did appear in a photo in Time magazine. The emotional trauma of seeing the Pope shot and the Polizia charging around knocking people over in their cars didn't really hit me until we went to the Pantheon afterwards. It has this beautiful calming light and was Iike a refuge at the time.
10 You were working in San Francisco at the time of the big earthquake in 1989.
What was that like?
It was pretty interesting in terms of seeing what that force can do. My colleague was about three cars back from that collapsed section of freeway. The world learns a lot from these earthquakes.
I still find it hard going back to Christchurch because so much has been razed to the ground. It's lost its heart and soul. It will take time for the vibrancy to come back.
11 You worked closely with Auckland Council on developing the Wynyard Quarter. What do you think of the unitary plan?
It's very ambitiously tried to make a lot of change in a very short space of time with limited consultation. Some of the planning needs further consideration. It's a move in the right direction.
The RMA needs to be sorted out. The slowness and cost of the process is killing development. There's always a balance in life and we've got to get that right.
12 Do you have any worries for the planet we're handing over to our children?
Yes I do. The inequality between the haves and have-nots is growing. We need to drive sustainability a lot harder because at the moment we're just paying lip service to it. Houses are getting bigger when they should be getting smaller. We need to build up more than we're building out.
You go north or south and you see acreages of subdivision. We need to change that mentality of the quarter acre pavlova paradise. My kids are unlikely to have freestanding houses but they probably don't want to either. Their generation is going to live differently.
The challenge is looking far enough into the future to ensure that we're actually creating a better world. Maori take the long view about what happens over many generations. I think it probably takes that long to really get a proper view of life.