Almanac Sailing: Auld Mug coming back to NZ says two-time Cup-winner Borrows


“The Kiwis can get it done this time”

The Auld Mug is heading back to New Zealand. That’s the view of 2013 America’s Cup winner, and Kiwi, Kevin Borrows.

Borrows, an eight-year veteran of three Cup campaigns, tasted victory with Oracle Team USA last time around in San Francisco in his as role Aerodynamic Analyst/Project Manager but he thinks Emirates Team New Zealand can turn the tables this time on former team-mate Jimmy Spithill’s outfit and take the trophy home from Bermuda.

“The Kiwis are sailing their boat really well. Their speed loop (trimmers/helmsman) are the best in the world in high performance boats.”

Borrows was, somewhat ironically, one of who were many Kiwis a part of the US-based syndicate in 2013 when they staged one of the greatest comebacks in sport rallying from 8-1 down to prevail 9-8 over Team New Zealand – then lead by Dean Barker. Auckland-born Borrows joined Oracle TUSA in 2008 after a stint with Team New Zealand during the 2007 Cup in Valencia. Borrows since based himself in the Bay Area and after leaving OTUSA at the conclusion of the 2013 campaign founded his own marine technology start-up,  eb1 labs leveraging real time simulation technology to build digital experiences for gaming, education and data analytics.

TNZ boat leaders Peter Burling and Blair Tuke will be looking to avenge the Kiwi defeat from 2013, even though the duo were not involved that time around. Just to add to the Kiwi v Aussie spice Victorian Glen Ashby is the TNZ skipper – so Australia can claim a role in either winning boat.

As was shown with New Zealand ‘s earlier capsizer in the regatta before the start of a race against Ben Ainslie Racing’s UK syndicate nothing is certain.

“In my mind the largest risk is break downs” say Borrows. “If the boat stays reliable and they can keep it clean at the start, which they did really well against Artemis then they definitely have the pace.”

“In the qualifiers they made mistakes against Oracle and still nearly got it done” Team New Zealand finished second with eight wins, the same amount as Oracle TUSA, but did lose twice to them.

Borrows, is not only accomplished in the design aspect of Cup racing but he has a world-renowned record as a sailor himself. He was a world youth champion and has sailed preparation events for his Cup syndicates so his comments about the tactical aspects of the racing come with authority.

This Kiwi syndicate are bidding to become the second NZ-based team to win outside New Zealand since the crew on NZL 32 did it in 1995 in San Diego. But they will do so with a scoring disadvantage before the finals series commences. As ever there were quirks to the Cup rules and this time around the ‘defenders’ Oracle TUSA competed in (and won) the qualifying rounds for the ‘challengers.’ This meant that they were gifted a point through to the finals series. It’s a rule which has been met with bemusement, particularly as Oracle TUSA are already the ‘home’ side.

And one which does puzzle Borrows to a degree.

“The point into their match is a hangover of the defender joining the challenger series, but it is a little counter intuitive to anyone that doesn’t understand the nuances.”

The improvement in the black AC70 craft shouldn’t be taken lightly as Borrows was predicting an Oracle v Team NZ final before the qualifiers, but Oracle winning. The American syndicate had a huge jump on the innovation in the mechanical engineering systems last time around in 2013 says Borrows so the Kiwi sailing and improvements in using the technology for the duration of the regatta has seen them improved greatly.

One of the interesting innovations this time around has been the addition of the futuristic sounding ‘’ role cyclors on the Kiwi boat. The Kiwis dispensed with the traditional grinder (arm-powered winch) role and replaced it with a cycling-like system which powers the hydraulic systems on the boat which in turn operates the foils and wingsails.

For everything that has happened in recent years with the America’s Cup from sailors getting banned in 2013 to all bar the New Zealand syndicate having a say in the rules for this regatta having Olympic cyclists on a boat maybe isn’t that surprising.

The race to seven points begins Saturday (Sunday NZT/AEST) in the Great Sound and if the confidence which Borrows exudes now about Team New Zealand it can see them make their own comeback this time around against USA17.

Disclosure: Borrows is one of my best friends from Marlborough Primary School in Glenfield New Zealand. Both of us had dreams of a career in elite sport, one reached them and the other didn’t. I’m grateful he was able to contribute his thoughts on #ac35 over a short e-mail exchange. I’m also grateful he didn’t laugh too much last time he took me out on a boat on Murrays Bay. I’m bad enough at sports which are land-based. Thanks K

This America’s Cup preview first appeared on From the sideline of sport

About Hamish Neal

Born in Lower Hutt New Zealand Hamish is forever wedded to all things All Black, All Whites, Tall Blacks and more. Writing more nowadays in his 'spare time' (what is that anyway?) but still with a passion for broadcasting. Has worked in various sports development roles in England, Northern Ireland and Australia.

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