America's Cup: Protection will help development of Team NZ's champion young crew

Team New Zealand coach Ray Davies sees huge development potential in the champion young crew led by Peter Burling and, pleasingly, swift moves have been made to protect them from poachers.
The Kiwi sailors are obvious targets for rival teams, particularly wealthy new syndicates who could emerge for the next cycle of yachtings premier event.

Incredibly, Burling, 30, Blair Tuke, 31, Josh Junior, 31, and Andy Maloney, 30 have already won two Americas Cups.

Ricky Wilson/Stuff
Peter Burling, third from left, leads the Americas Cup celebrations for Team New Zealand.

They form the brains trust of the sailing department on these complicated AC75 boats along with Glenn Ashby, the 43-year-old Australian who has long lived here and even boasts a New Zealand Order of Merit to go with his two Americas Cup winners medals on the Kiwi boat following a 2010 Cup success with American outfit Oracle as a coach.

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The latest Team New Zealand victory mirrors the 2000 defence that followed the breakthrough 1995 win in San Diego. The core of that champion team was ripped out by Swiss billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli and there is speculation of his Alinghi syndicate returning to the Cup scene though his chequebook might not be so potent now in terms of sailors, though the design team remains vulnerable.

By retaining the Auld Mug, Team New Zealand stay in charge of the rules and, along with new challenger of record, Sir Ben Ainslie's Team UK, they have moved swiftly to tighten up the nationality rules in a revamped protocol.

Teams are now required to have 100 per cent of the race crew filled by sailors who are either a passport holder of the country of the teams yacht club as of Friday [March 19], or to have been physically present in that country for two of the previous three years before March 18.

It will make it virtually impossible to rip out the guts of this Kiwi crew now.

Davies, a veteran of the Cup scene since 2000, knows their work wont have gone unnoticed.

Its always the same every time ... you focus on winning the event, then when that is behind you, everything resets, Davies told Stuff.

Youd like to think there's a lot of history within the team. Everyone has got to make their own personal decisions. But, I can speak for everyone and we are just so proud to sail for New Zealand and to be able to do it here is pretty exciting.

Team New Zealand coach Ray Davies, right, with designer Dan Bernasconi, skipper Peter Burling and Blair Tuke.

Team New Zealand have made no secret that their priority now is to secure the future of their team.

The argument over where the next Americas Cup should be held is irrelevant if there is no Kiwi team.

Davies insists a sailing crew dripping Olympic medals, world titles and Americas Cup success, has got plenty of improvement in them given their relative youth in a game where experience is so vital.

For sure. We invested in the youth a while ago now, so the guys are growing up and maturing all of the time, he said.

It would be good to get more youth into the team as well, because the hunger and drive these guys have has been remarkable.

Theyre very much a standout team of youth, which is now very experienced, with obviously Andy and Josh and some very experienced grinding guys as well, who made the hydraulic systems on the boat very efficient.

So its a team effort, and wed love to see more youth coming through our team.

Abigail Dougherty/Stuff
Josh Junior, left, and Andy Maloney have taken on increasing responsibilities in the Team New Zealand crew.

The continuity in the core of the Team New Zealand sailing outfit will now benefit from the SailGP program that features the F50 foiling catamarans from Bermuda 2017 which have been modified.

Burling and Tuke spearhead the New Zealand teams entry into the global circuit run by Sir Russell Coutts this year that starts in Bermuda on April 24.

They have Maloney and Junior with them as well as Cup-winning grinders Louis Sinclair and Marcus Hansen.

Outstanding New Zealand women sailors Liv Mackay and Erica Dawson are in the squad as SailGP looks for gender diversity.

There are eight regattas planned, including one in Christchurch in late January, and more could be added.

Team New Zealand's poaching concerns go deeper than just the champion crew and there are other key areas of the syndicate that remain vulnerable.

They have a 35-person design team that have been central to the success of the syndicate and have intellectual property that rival syndicates would love as the rapid development of the radical AC75s looks to escalate.

Team New Zealand grinder Steve Fergusson says winning his first America's Cup was "top of the list" in life's moments.


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