Grant Dalton didn’t mince words when asked if his team has improved since the Louis Vuitton Cup concluded 10 days ago. “Yeah, we’ve definitely improved,” said Dalton.
When asked to quantify that improvement, the Emirates Team New Zealand managing director became evasive. “It’s a number,” he said without revealing the amount.
For Emirates Team New Zealand, the Cup final is the promised land. The team has featured in every America’s Cup Match since 1995, save for the Deed of Gift match in 2010. That means the upcoming 2013 final is the fifth appearance for the Kiwi team, which has won twice and lost twice in the past 18years.
In the months before arriving in San Francisco, Dalton said frequently that this was a make or break event for Emirates Team New Zealand. Nothing but a victory would be good enough for the team to continue as constructed. But will they be good enough on the day? Do they have the speed to pull off a victory on ORACLE TEAM USA’s home waters? As always in the America’s Cup, the answer will be found in each team’s boatspeed.
“If they have a speed edge then it will find its way over that period of time; over 17 races that speed edge will come through,” said Dalton. “You saw it with our match against Luna Rossa. We had a nosedive in Race 1 and then that electrical battery failure in Race 2, but we were just faster. And we were eventually going to wear them down. It happened to us in 2007. We were 2-1 up at one stage against Alinghi, but they were just a bit faster and it’ll eventually wear you down. And that will happen here. The fastest boat will ultimately wear the other one down.”
Although Dalton wouldn’t put a numerical value on his team’s improvement, he did discuss a couple of the notable changes on Aotearoa. When the team’s AC72 emerged from the boatshed last week after four days of modifications, it featured a pair of spoilers on the aft crossbeam and a large foredeck on the bowsprit, similar to the one on ORACLE TEAM USA.
“If you end plate the jib you create a downward force,” said Dalton. “Any force you can get forward helps the boat to come up more level. It pushes X number of kilos down on the end plating of the jib. We had to scramble to build that thing. It’s like building a bloody deck for a 50-footer. That was a massive scramble to get done.”
As for the spoilers on the aft crossbeam, Dalton referred to them as “pie warmers. I wanted to put flames on them, but the sailing team’s given me a great big boo, so we won’t be putting flames on the pie warmers.”
Dalton then explained the benefit: “Basically it creates more area. It’s like more wing because the apparent wind is so far forward, it’s a little bit more area.”
For Emirates Team New Zealand’s sake, the modifications had better produce enough speed to spoil the home team, or else they might put an end to one of the longest sustained runs in the America’s Cup by a team other than the New York Yacht Club.