The designer of New Zealand-based syndicates' other Auld Mug triumphs wants a return to more traditional sailing when the 36th America's Cup is hosted here in 2021.

At 90, Laurie Davidson is retired from the pinnacle of the sport but abreast of the quantum leaps which have taken the boats from keels onto foils.

From his Long Bay home, Davidson looks out across the Hauraki Gulf to the location where sport's oldest international trophy will likely be fought in four years.

A coffee table stacked with nautical tomes and a mind operating with the power of a wing sail ensure he understands the principles behind the Emirates Team New Zealand yachting phenomenon of recent weeks.


Davidson's state-of-the-art designs saw Black Magic (NZL32) win off San Diego in 1995 and Team New Zealand defend the trophy in 2000, yet his innovations have become museum pieces after what was witnessed in Bermuda.

"My specialty was designing a shape which would go through the water with the least resistance; these things [the AC50 catamarans] don't even touch the water. It's not yacht design as I knew it, but you've got to be impressed by what they do and the way the crew handled the hydrofoils."

The evolution is a contrast to Davidson's era when spinnakers burst into sponsor-covered life downwind, bowmen paraded like cats organising sail hoists, and bikes still rode on bitumen.

Nonetheless, Davidson was renowned for his innovative designs. His eponymous bow provided the point-of-difference in Team New Zealand's defence in 2000, much like 2017's cyclors or Ben Lexcen's winged keel which tipped the balance for Australia II in 1983.

"Part of the rules has generally been designing an ideal boat and then ensuring the rest of your components fit within certain parameters," Davidson says.

"Another factor to consider is that while there were six people on each boat, only three [Glenn Ashby, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke for ETNZ] were really sailing. The others were just creating power.

"I see there's a bit of talk about whether they return to monohulls but I don't see that happening if they want to make the event spectacular for viewers."

Davidson says the only current monohulls that create that kind of vision are the Australian-designed "18-footers" which resemble Jaws with a spinnaker downwind.

"They get up and fly out of the water but they've only got three people on them. That hardly represents the aura of the America's Cup.

"I think you'd need at least six people sailing to give it that feeling, but those extra bodies all add weight, and weight kills performance, so it's a conundrum.

"The current boats were virtually one design. All that was left for individual teams to do was design systems of foils and how they were controlled. That again is not the old America's Cup where each country designed its own particular boat. Whether they can go back to that, I don't know."

Of one thing Davidson is certain: the regatta should be raced off the East Coast Bays on Auckland's North Shore.

"If it was held out here," Davidson waves in an easterly direction from his lounge, "it mightn't be very good for spectators, but most watch on television these days anyway.

"The next best sailing venue would be between Waiheke Island and the mainland. The best for viewing would be between Rangitoto [Island] and Orakei but tidal and commercial shipping would rule that out, despite the good public vantage points. The quality of racing is more important."

Davidson disagrees with talk suggesting the races were too short in duration as the regatta sought to further capture the interest of the average viewer.

"They might have been short, but they were truly testing contests. Short races are the norm in those fast boats. I don't think you'd want them to be much longer unless you sailed slower boats.

"The lead still changed, like the race Oracle won when Burling made an error of judgment not coming to the last mark with the right of way, so he had to go behind.

"The results still came down to crew work, sailing ability and tactics."