In pursuit of revenge for their stunning defeat in San Francisco four years ago, Emirates Team New Zealand are setting themselves apart from rivals as they challenge for the 35th America’s Cup, both on and off the water.
On the water, they have caught their competitors off-guard with a pioneering switch to pedals to power their catamaran’s hydraulics, while on land they were notably absent when other top teams endorsed a “framework agreement” for the future of the oldest trophy in international sport.
Oracle Team USA, Britain’s Land Rover BAR, Groupama Team France, SoftBank Team Japan and Sweden’s Artemis Racing all signed up to the plan to boost the number of competitors by capping the multi-million dollar costs of the high-tech boats.
It also aims to make it easier to raise sponsorship and strike broadcast deals.
Emirates New Zealand’s abstention raises the stakes for this America’s Cup because if they win the trophy they will be in the driving seat for deciding what type of boat will be raced in the next cup, and where.
Lurking behind the decision is the team’s CEO Grant Dalton. “Dalts”, as he is known, may no longer be leading on board the boat, but the veteran sailor wields huge influence behind the scenes.
The competition is being held in Bermuda, with qualifying races already under way as five teams seek to become the challenger to Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup Match next month.
Whether Emirates Team New Zealand does lift the cup this time around will depend partly on the other big gamble the team has taken to set itself apart from the rest of the pack.
New Zealand’s switch to pedal power, with four fixed cycling positions on board their 50-foot catamaran rather than traditional winches, was a closely guarded secret which left the other teams with no time to copy their radical step.
Only the U.S. crew, who overturned a seemingly…