America's Cup: The Freo Files - Erle Williams on wintering over

Erle Williams at work in the 1987 Louis Vuitton Cup, Fremantle
Alan Sefton

Erle Williams is one of the hard men of New Zealand sailing. A chip off the old block. Erle was a watch captain aboard Whitbread line honours winner at the age of just 22years old. Less than four years later he was bowman aboard KZ-7 in the Louis Vuitton Cup.

Pirates of the Caribbean helmsman Erle Williams showing he was driving a Volvo Open 70 at the speed of 40 knots. At the dock in Portsmouth after taking third place across the Atlantic Ocean in leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race from New York to Portsmouth, England. © Oskar Kihlborg
Here he tells PJ Montgomery how the Kiwis, under the baton of Michael Fay and whip of Laurent Esquier and friends, rose from not having a 12 Metre yacht to being Louis Vuitton Cup finalists in just over 12 months.

That route included being the only challenger to 'winter over' in Fremantle - something Michael Fay later conceded that the crews did not know when they left NZ, but found out later in Fremantle. 'They were never going to come back,' said Fay.

Along the way they developed some incredible techniques including free climbing out to the end of the spinnaker pole, in 20kts plus winds and big seas, because as Erle tells it 'putting a halyard on was too slow'.

Here PJ Montgomery interviews Williams for TVNZ's America's Cup coverage from Fremantle.

Williams went on to enjoy (and still does) a mercurial sailing career including competing five round the world races and helming a Volvo 70 at over 40kts in the 2005/06 Volvo Ocean Race aboard Pirates of the Caribbean.