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Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Glenn Ashby Interview -- Part 2

Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Glenn Ashby Interview -- Part 2

The second part of our interview with Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Glenn Ashby.
Click here to read Part 1.

With the 35th America’s Cup looming this summer Emirate Team New Zealand skipper Glenn Ashby says the whole Kiwi team has been working flat out. Twelve-hour days and six-day weeks have been standard. 

“It is a busy, busy program,” he says. “We know it's not going to get any less busy over the coming months. But that's the game we're in.”

A typical work day for Ashby begins with a 6 AM alarm. He is out of the door by 6.20 and at work shortly afterwards.  

“I’m normally in the work gym in the morning for a bit over an hour and then quick brekkie,” Ashby says. Next it’s usually meetings which run for a couple of hours. Then we're either out on the water or we're on the simulator.”

Only the latest generation of America’s Cup sailors truly know what it feels like to sail aboard a flying catamaran traveling at 40 knots and more. Ashby describes it like this: 

“The boats are very, very bumpy - particularly when you're sailing in short, choppy conditions,” he says. “When you're doing 35 to 45 knots just a little flick of the helm can suddenly create a huge amount of g-force. 

“In the turns, the g-forces are particularly high and you can send somebody over the side of the boat in just the blink of an eye. Depending on what sort of manoeuvre you're trying to execute, crossing the boat can be extremely difficult.

“You absolutely feel the whole boat through your backside. Sitting down in the wing trimming position I can definitely feel every little movement. Everyone on board is constantly reacting and anticipating the whole time as we sail the boat around the course.”

Aside from mastering a new set of sailing skills, today’s America’s Cup sailors also have to cope with the mental pressure that goes with sailing constantly on a knife edge.

“It's really hard to sustain that absolute 100 per cent level of concentration at the sort of speeds that we're doing,” Ashby says. “One little slip up from any of the guys on board can lead to a capsize or a breakage, so you really have to be bang on your game. That's a big part of getting these boats around the track cleanly and a big part of winning races.”

As different as the new foiling boats are compared to conventional sailboats, Ashby maintains the core sailing skills he learned as a youngster still very much apply. 

The intuitive stuff, like looking where the wind's coming from and keeping your head out of the boat and all that sort of seat-of-the-pants sailing, is still very much a part of how we race these America’s Cup boats,” he says. 

The transformation the America’s Cup has undergone over recent years has not been all together popular with some die-hard fans who complain the Cup has strayed too far from its conventional sailing roots. 

Ashby, however, firmly believes the rapid rate of development in performance and advances in technology can only benefit the sport in the long term. 

“It is a whole new world and it's an exciting time for yachting,” he says. “I think we have to accept the fact that for our sport to continue to be able to compete against other sports around the world we've got to embrace the excitement and the technology and the performance of this type of sailing.”

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