Imagination, sailing talent, imagination and eclecticism: this is how we could describe Emirates Team New Zealand, the opponent that Luna Rossa will face starting March 6 as it tries to go for the America’s Cup. In New Zealand, sailing is the national sport (along with rugby), which explains why the Kiwis have been major players in recent Cup history.
They won it by snatching it from the Yankees in 1995 and successfully defended it against Luna Rossa in 2000 (handing it back to us 5-0). They lost the 2003 challenge to Alinghi, tried again unsuccessfully in 2007, almost made it in 2013 (the “comeback” of the Americans who overturned the result from 1-8 to 9-8) and finally regained it in 2017, beating BMW Oracle Racing (USA). What do we know about our opponents? That their AC75 is very fast. And that they have developed a unique set of foils that none of the other teams have ever shown: T-shaped appendages, with the horizontal part set very far back and a small bulb of the front part. A risky solution, because it exposes the boat to probable instability (it is no coincidence that Kiwis have capsized the most) but certainly extremely fast and effective in some conditions, particularly in winds above 15 knots of intensity.
Team New Zealand is scary, because they with their design director Dan Bernasconi are the ones who pulled the AC 75 out of the hat, albeit with Luna Rossa’s approval. Helmsman Peter Burling is the prototypical perfect AC75 sailor: young, accustomed to the most competitive fast classes and with an uncommon sailing intelligence. In fact, the new boat Dan Bernasconi imagined in the image of the young New Zealand helmsman, already a thorn in James Spithill’s side at the America’s Cup in Bermuda
But Kiwis are still men, and many are hoping that by March 6 something will crack in this seemingly perfect machine.
The big boss of Team New Zealand is Grant Dalton and he races under the insignia of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. Instead, the team principal is Matteo de Nora, born in the U.S. to an Italian father and Swiss mother. With him at the helm, the Kiwis won the 2017 America’s Cup and three Louis Vuitton Cups (2007, 2013, 2017). The helmsman is Peter Burling the youngest person to have won at the America’s Cup. His palmares include a silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics and gold at the subsequent 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games as helmsman in the 49er class, along with Blair Tuke flight controller of team New Zealand. The skipper and mainsail trimmer, on the other hand, is Glenn Ashby very skilled in catamarans won an Olympic silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Prominent among the grinders is former cyclist Simon Paul van Velthooven bronze in the track keirin at the London Olympics.
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