America's Cup: Team NZ wish Davis well with new team

Emirates Team New Zealand practice the first reaching leg before racing. Racing was canceled when the upper wind limit was exceeded. America's Cup 34. 17/9/2013
Emirates Team New Zealand Chief Operating Officer, Kevin Shoebridge, describes the split with long time coach Rod Davis as 'amicable.'

'I wrote to him this morning and wished him, well,' Shoebridge told Sail-World today.

Overnight Swedish America's Cup Challenger, Artemis Racing announced a number of new additions to the team, at the launch function in Stockholm, Sweden. One of those was that of Rod Davis as coach for the team lead by Olympic Gold Medalist, Iain Percy (GBR) and with another Olympic Gold medalist Nathan Outteridge (AUS) as skipper. Davis is also an Olympic Gold Medalist in the Soling keelboat class.

Shoebridge says that the Kiwi team is reviewing the coaching structure and had not made any decisions at this time.

'We have to refresh the team, and the coaching side is part of that process as is the sailing side,' he explained. 'Rod was also probably looking at options himself.'

'We've had a strong relationship with Rod over a number of years, and maybe it is best for both parties that we do something different.'

As a commercially funded team, Emirates Team New Zealand is trying to conserve financial resources until decisions as to venue and other key points regarding the 35th America's Cup are made known by the America's Cup Events Authority. The commercially funded teams are always at risk of having members signed, at this stage of the Cup cycle, by the billionaire-backed teams, such as Artemis Racing and Oracle Team USA.

So far there have been few, who have left the team, but Davis is the most notable. His brother-in-law, Tom Schnackenberg, is also with Artemis Racing, and the pair have been in the same team previously.

Those still with Emirates Team New Zealand are understood to be on relatively low retainers only, and are mostly in the design and management/marketing areas. A small sailing team is competing on the Extreme Sailing Series circuit.

The team recently pulled back from entering the Volvo Ocean Race on financial grounds to conserve funds for an America's Cup program that lacks some definition due to decisions not being announced by organisers.

Davis is now on his ninth America's Cup campaign, having moved into the skipper's role sailing Eagle for the Newport Harbour YC. They were one of 13 challengers from six countries but did not make the Semi-Finals in Fremantle.

Davis then moved to New Zealand where he sail aboard the Big Boat in the 1988 Deed of Gift Match. He continued as helmsman on the tandem keeled NZL-20 in the 1992 America's Cup before he and tactician David Barnes were replaced mid-series in the Louis Vuitton Cup Final by Russell Coutts and Brad Butterworth. His role since then for Team New Zealand has been as a sailing coach, through to the 2013 America's Cup where he was a tactical coach, while Joe Allen was the coach for manoeuvres and handling.

Shoebridge wouldn't be drawn on whether there were changes in the coaching role on the slate as a result of the internal review conducted by Team New Zealand after the 2013 campaign.

'We don't want to signal our intentions to other teams.'

'We will probably need a new skillset,' he said. 'That is not saying that we did badly last time and need to take a fresh approach. But we moved in the last cycle from monohulls to multihulls, and now we need to move a step ahead again.

'Last time we were in a new class starting from scratch. Now we are in foiling multihulls for the second cycle. We don't have Code Zero's or downwind sails - so things will change in crew roles, positions and the coaching approach.'

In response to the point that the international coaching pool at America's Cup level is not that deep and a top team could not easily lose the services of an experienced coach such as Rod Davis, Shoebridge disagrees.

'It could be argued that the pool is bigger now than it was previously,' he says. 'There are more multihull experienced people in the market now, for instance, that there were prior to the start of the 2013 America's Cup cycle.'

With four years between America's Cup cycles, it is likely that existing team members will retire from on-board roles and could move into coaching roles. As did former crewman, Joe Allen, who pioneered the use of Go-Pro camera technology as a crew and design video recording tool aboard the wing-sailed foiling catamarans.

Other signings announced by Artemis included some members of other teams, as well as former Artemis crew re-engagement, including two Swedish crew members to fill the nationality quota required under the new Protocol.

Next moves in the America's Cup are expected to be the announcement of the entries on September 9, 2014 in London.

Indications are that there will be more than four teams announced. Italian team Luna Rossa will take over as Challenger of Record from the original Challenger, Hamilton island Yacht Club, who announced they would not be entering, having negotiated the Protocol for the 35th America's Cup.

The venue is required to be announced by the end of 2014.