28 Jun 2017

Cracks could have sunk Team NZ's campaign

10:07 am on 28 June 2017

Team New Zealand has given new details of hidden damage that could have taken the team off the water during the America's Cup finals.

Team New Zealand capsized just moments after crossing the start line.

Team New Zealand capsized just moments after crossing the start line during the semifinals against Britain's Land Rover BAR. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The team's head, Grant Dalton, revealed that microscopic cracks in their light-wind daggerboards were worsening during the series in Bermuda.

That was something senior team member Murray Jones said could have taken them off the water for a day.

"We could potentially have lost two races if we'd damaged a board because we might not have been able to complete a race," said Jones, the team's coach and a six-times cup winner.

"Everyone in the sailing team would have been mentally prepared for that."

Though the other set of daggerboards could have been modified to do the same job, Jones called the risk a potential hiccup.

"We weren't overly concerned, because we had a good overlap with our other boards, and we could have brought our all-purpose boards down [the wind speed range] quite well."

Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling said the boats were "definitely built to the edge".

The crew knew they had to push the boat's structure hard, otherwise they would not be fast enough, he told Morning Report.

"You always knew in the back of your mind that if you pushed the wrong button at the wrong time you could probably pretty easily break something significant.

"That day we did capsize we were very lucky, we didn't really break anything majorly structural."

He hadn't, though, been worried about about the hairline cracks. "We've got a great bunch of engineers, great bunch of designers and shore team."

Jones said the team was now in a tricky phase, trying to select and retain talent for the next defence.

"This is the period of re-employing people and making sure you have the right people going forward, that's where you win and lose the cup really.

"It's quite a problem, because typically you have no budget and you want to retain key people."

The 36th regatta could be up to four years away and Team New Zealand has to negotiate the rules and the type of boat to be sailed with its Italian challenger of record Luna Rossa.

'We haven't really had any time off in about three and a half years'

Burling said it was "impossible to compare" the America's Cup victory with the Olympic gold medal he and fellow Team New Zealand crew member Blair Tuke won in Rio last year.

Team NZ's Blair Tuke and Peter Burling.

Team New Zealand's Blair Tuke, left, and Peter Burling Photo: @americascup / ACEA 2017 / Ricardo Pinto

The 26-year-old calmly steered his way into yachting history yesterday, demolishing Jimmy Spithill's Oracle Team USA to win the Auld Mug and become the youngest ever sailor to do so.

Burling, an Olympic gold and silver medallist in the 49er skiff class, said while he would cherish those medals forever, it was special to be part of a winning team that overcame plenty of obstacles and off-water tensions to achieve its goal.

Team New Zealand have won five races against Oracle Team USA in Bermuda.

Team New Zealand in action during the 35th regatta in Bermuda Photo: Emirates Team New Zealand

"It definitely feels pretty special, it's something we've had the dream of and that goal of coming here and winning that America's Cup and we've faced and overcome a lot of challenges. We've had a pretty bumpy road to get here and faced a lot of adversity and the way we've come together through that and let our results on the water do the talking."

Burling was looking forward to "a pretty cool few weeks" sharing his America's Cup win with the rest of New Zealand after a gruelling four years of competing on the world's biggest stages.

He won 49er gold with Tuke at last year's Rio Games, and said juggling his Olympic and America's Cup duties was challenging.

"It's actually going to be nice having a few days off.

"It's been a massive push for everyone in this team, but, myself and Blair, we haven't really had any time off in about three and a half years. It was a massive push into Rio and then we probably had about five or six days off before we were off to another America's Cup event and trying to help the team develop the boat.

"To be able to lift that and bring it home to New Zealand, it's going to be a pretty cool few weeks sharing it with all our fans and friends and family back home," Burling said, adding he had received a lot of messages from supporters at home."

Team NZ is bringing the Auld Mug home after 14 years away with a 7-1 win over Oracle Team USA in Bermuda.

Team New Zealand will be bringing the Auld Mug home next week. Photo: AFP

The whole cup experience had been mind blowing, he said.

"It was our goal and dream to come here and win the America's Cup and to have it sitting there and have it in the morning meeting when we all got together after a bit of recovery from last night, we're just blown away.

"It feels pretty special, and the same time it's still just sinking in."

Oracle Team USA joined Team NZ's celebrations

The celebrations following the win, in the New Zealand team's "shed" where the space-age 50-foot catamaran and wingsail were stored, were "pretty low-key" with the crew only realising how drained they were once the adrenaline wore off.

"We finally realised how tired we were and how most of us didn't really have that much energy to carry on," Burling said.

Burling said the losing US team - led by his "good friend" Spithill who, until Team New Zealand's win, had been the youngest helmsman to win the trophy - joined the New Zealanders in their celebration.

"They came over and said congrats last night and we invited them in. It was pretty cool to be able to share it with them."

Any antagonism between the two during the competition on Bermuda's Great Sound was "a bit of friendly banter".

"We're really proud of what we have managed to achieve as a group," Burling said, adding that his message to the next generation of America's Cup sailors was to get out and "have fun" as he and his team had done sailing their catamaran.

He was excited about bringing the Cup home next week and was "pretty sure" the next defence will be held in Auckland.

"Team New Zealand's got a pretty good base and a lot of history in Auckland."

The boat he helmed to the 7-1 victory would take a few months to be brought back, and he admitted he would miss it.

"It's a cool boat to sail, and it'll be a bit sad not to sail it for a while now. I'm sure you'll see it again, but getting it home will take three to four months, so it's going to be a while."

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