Team New Zealand helmsman Nathan Outteridge has lifted the lid on the conversation that saw him join the team for the 37th America’s Cup and identified a key reason why he was brought into the team.
The Defender caught many off guard when they announced the signing of the two-time Olympic medalist in late 2021 after retaining the Auld Mug in Auckland earlier that year. At that point, Peter Burling (helmsman) and Blair Tuke (flight controller) were yet to be re-signed by the team and Outteridge’s signing suggested a potential contingency plan had Burling and Tuke opted not to return. It also triggered suggestions that Team New Zealand were planning to adopt a dual helming strategy for their next campaign which would see Burling and Outteridge share driving duties; that proved to be the case.
Speaking to the Herald, the New Zealand-based Australian provided some insight into the conversations between himself and Team New Zealand chief operating officer Kevin Shoebridge around working alongside Burling in a bid to improve a key area of their performance that ultimately saw him signed.
“Kevin Shoebridge approached me probably a few months after the America’s Cup was over and said they were looking to strengthen the sailing team but also to make sure they were prepared as best they could be for racing,” Outteridge told the Herald.
“I think one of the things they felt was maybe lacking in the last Cup was the racing side of it. Clearly, the boat was fast and the guys sailed it incredibly well in terms of handling, but there was very little racing mentality and they felt that if they could have Pete and myself together – whether we’re racing against each other in-house or working together on racing strategies – that was something they were quite keen to put together.
“When you get an opportunity to join the Defender, it’s pretty hard to say no, so I worked my schedule around and it’s all worked out nicely. It’s a pretty awesome opportunity.”
It’s not the first time Outteridge has worked with Burling and Tuke as they trained together in the build-up to the London Olympics in 2012, where they both competed in the 49er regatta. Outteridge, who sailed with Iain Jensen, won a gold medal for Australia, with Burling and Tuke claiming the silver medal.
“It’s been about a decade since I really worked with Pete and Blair closely,” Outteridge reflected.
“Now here we are about 10 years later doing it all together again so it’s pretty special.”
The 37-year-old last competed in the America’s Cup in Bermuda in 2017 at the helm of Swedish syndicate Artemis Racing but was busy in the few years before the last edition of the regatta working with the now-defunct Japanese SailGP team.
In two seasons, Outteridge helmed the team to two runner-up finishes, and his nickname of ‘the wind whisperer’ was frequently referenced as he consistently showed an impressive ability to sail in tricky conditions.
He was not totally out of the frame in the 2021 regatta, providing commentary for the event and getting an idea of how the foiling monohulls work, and since joining the Kiwi team Outteridge has taken to life in a foiling monohull like a duck to water. That was shown in some solid performances in the first preliminary regatta in Vilanova i la Geltru earlier this month. Team New Zealand finished the regatta second on a countback after a lack of wind meant the final between themselves and American Magic could not be contested.
“I did the last Cup watching it from a commentary point of view and I thought it was fascinating but to be a part of it and to jump in one of the boats is going to be really cool,” Outteridge said.
“It’s far more enjoyable (now), that’s for sure, and I understand a lot more about what happened in the last America’s Cup now having been immersed in the team. The America’s Cup is always about secrecy, and I thought all the teams did a really good job last cycle of keeping the information they could away from me so I didn’t expose it too much through the commentary.
“I have a far better understanding of what’s going to make a difference in terms of performance around the course and how to tack and jibe them, and a lot of the starting strategy.”
Christopher Reive joined the Herald sports team in 2017, bringing the same versatility to his coverage as he does to his sports viewing habits.