While some media queried where that announcement left 2017 skipper Glenn Ashby, the team said that no roles had been properly decided as they were still working out the logistics of sailing the radical tri-foiling 75ft monohull.
An Emirates Team New Zealand spokesman has clarified the situation with the sailing crew going into the Defence of the America’s Cup in March 2021.
“Glenn and Pete are both committed to the team and a successful defence. Pete is on the Volvo Ocean Race at present, and as such, there has been no specific roles defined with the greater sailing team yet.”
The statement was issued after a request from Sail-World this morning (Friday) after several media stories emerged yesterday based on inadvertent comments made by performance coach Ray Davies in a social media livecast that went to air eight days earlier.
When asked to clarify what “the greater sailing team” meant, the team confirmed, “no offers/decisions have been made on any sailing crew positions”.
During the Volvo Ocean Race stopover in early March, it transpired that key crew members, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke did not yet have new contracts eight months after winning the America’s Cup in Bermuda.
The mention that Burling had been re-signed by the team, during a Facebook online session was more significant as an indication that with the Venue apparently settled, the team had some funding lines crystallized and was settling into its work for the Defence of the 36th America’s Cup.
Looking at the likely crew functions on board the AC75, a tri-foiling monohull which has never sailed previously, it was difficult to see how decisions could have been made on the skipper role or any other position within the team, and Sail-World decided not to report Davies’ inadvertent comment.
While it is expected that Burling would be the designated helmsman, it is likely that the shots could be called by the skipper located more in the centre of the boat and closer to those controlling foils, sail sheeting, tactics and navigation functions. A centrally located skipper can see what is happening rather than be reliant on screen readouts and earpiece conversations before making decisions.
With the expanded crew from six to 11 sailors, it is likely that a tactician’s role will come back into play and that is another function to be factored into crew selection.
It is also likely that a bowman will also be required in the re-jigged crew requiring a wider focus on crew functions than just the helm, skipper, trimmer, daggerboard control and cyclor/grinder roles on the AC50.
The risks of a skipper at the back end of the boat calling the shots was underlined in the 2013 America’s Cup when ETNZ’s AC72 was called into a tack close to the windward mark in Race 8 and almost capsized when the AC72 crew found mid-tack that they did not have sufficient hydraulic pressure to tack the wingsail.
A similar situation occurred in the Challenger Final when ETNZ misjudged the approach to the rounding the final mark of Race 6. They had to do a double gybe again with reduced pressure and a jammed daggerboard gasket which initially prevented the lowering of the foil, but recovered to win by just 1 sec in a vital result. Boat positioning errors were commonplace by all teams in the 2017 America’s Cup. The one making the least was ETNZ who was the only one with a separated the skipper and helmsman function. The team had gone a step further and separated off the daggerboard trimming function to a third crew member.
During a media conference at the end of the Round Robin phase of the 35th America’s Cup, Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill criticized the way Emirates Team NZ had split their crew functions. However, on reflection at the end of the regatta with a 49-5 mark win statistic, it was probably the Kiwis who had made the right call on the shorthanded AC50’s.
With the America’s Cup bases issues along with other key aspects of Defence, and Event logistics either confirmed or out of their hands, along with the announcement of the America’s Cup Class Rule, the team would normally be expected to be sharpening their focus at this stage of the America’s Cup cycle.