Murray Jones, the Emirates Team New Zealand coach, has drawn striking parallels between the Kiwis’ present crop of sailors and those who captured the hearts of the sailing-mad nation after winning the America’s Cup for the first time more than two decades ago.
The man who helped to mastermind Oracle Team USA’s stunning comeback against the Kiwis four years ago in San Francisco said Team New Zealand’s class of 2017 possessed similar qualities to the one that thrashed defender Young America at the 29th America’s Cup in San Diego in 1995.
“It [team of 1995] was a relatively young team and a little bit green and hungry, and that’s exactly what this team is,” Jones said.
As was the case for New Zealand’s victorious team of 1995, Jones said today’s syndicate had also encountered challenges trying to make ends meet with limited funding.
“This experience for me has a lot of parallels with the ‘95 team, where we had a low budget relative to the other teams,” he added.
The Kiwis’ budget is reportedly a fraction of Oracle’s, while they had only one test boat compared with other teams who had the luxury of having multiple test platforms at their disposal.
Despite their challenges, the Kiwis have advanced to the America’s Cup Match for the second straight time and lead defenders Oracle Team USA 3-0 in the best-of-13 series.
At the helm of the team’s 50-foot America’s Cup Class foiling catamaran is Olympic champion and multiple 49er world champion Peter Burling, who Jones said shared similar qualities with Sir Russell Coutts — the helmsman of the Kiwis’ victorious team that beat Dennis Conner’s Young America 5-0 in San Diego 22 years ago.
“As far as Peter’s qualities, his grasp of the design factors and all that has really given him a big advantage, I think, over the other skippers in this competition,” Jones said. “So he is actually quite similar to Russell Coutts in that regard.”
Coutts boasts a perfect record of 14-0 in America’s Cup racing, winning the “Auld Mug” five times with three different syndicates.
Burling is making his debut in this America’s Cup cycle as helmsman.
He was a member of New Zealand Sailing Team that won the inaugural Red Bull Youth America’s Cup in San Francisco in 2013 and also won the prestigious World Sailor of the Year Award.