Davies: ‘Not running around with your head down so much’

© Chris Cameron / Emirates Team New Zealand


Emirates Team New Zealand tactician Ray Davies has stood beside skipper Dean Barker for half a dozen years now. He’s the tactician aboard the team’s AC45, which he likens to a “slave ship,” and now is learning to call laylines while zipping along at 40 knots.

Your AC72 recently spent 12 days in the shed undergoing a “speed implant.” What was done?

We’ve made a few changes to the boat, wing, platform, control systems, hydraulics, bearings… there’s been a lot of work that’s gone on. There’s nothing too major, just another day at the office, really.

Emirates Team New Zealand © Chris Cameron / Emirates Team New Zealand


Describe the role of the tactician on the AC72; are you able to focus on more traditional tactics?

Yes, you are able to focus more on traditional tactics on the AC72. The AC45 “slave ship” is definitely very physical. The 72 is physical also, but more from a set position, i.e. a (grinding) pedestal. You’re not running around with your head down so much, so you can help out physically but also keep your head out of the boat at the same time.

Can you imagine racing the AC72 on a confined course?

Although the AC72’s very physical and the grinds are big, you can sail these boats on a short course. We’ve set the boat up so that mechanics-wise it’s as easy as possible. Although you’re traveling very fast, you can maneuver these boats very well. The design of the boat is for short courses, and you can do that. With furling sails, they’re easier to manage than some of the sails we’ve had to deal with in the past. Albeit we’ll be traveling at 40 knots, we can turn the boat wherever we want.

Emirates Team New Zealand © Chris Cameron / Emirates Team New Zealand


What’s been the biggest adjustment into the 72?

The biggest adjustment is the appreciation of the speed you’re doing and picking the laylines, because with extreme speed it’s harder to be more accurate with your calls. That’s taken a bit of time to adjust to. Running around while hydro-foiling, it’s been tricky at times to hold your balance. There’ve been a few areas to work on. But nothing that’s out of reach.

Emirates Team New Zealand © Chris Cameron / Emirates Team New Zealand


What have you learned that you didn’t anticipate having to deal with?

That’s a good question because you spend a lot of time in meetings discussing what are going to be the key factors going forward. The biggest adjustment is the physical side of the boat. They are extremely physical. But if you’re timing’s right you can pull off any maneuver.

Have you had any OMG moments?

Touch wood, we haven’t as yet. But they can happen quickly and can sneak up when unexpected.

Emirates Team New Zealand © Chris Cameron / Emirates Team New Zealand