Over the next few weeks we will be introducing our 23 sailing team members ahead of the 33rd America's Cup Match which starts on 8 February...
We begin with Rodney Ardern who was a dyed-in-the-wool keelboat sailor. He spent most of his childhood racing and cruising around the North Island of New Zealand, before joining Team New Zealand aged just 21. With a match racing world title and three Volvo Ocean Races on his CV, there isn’t much you can tell Ardern about how to sail keelboats.
But multihulls were another matter. The last couple of years have been a big learning curve, and one that he has loved. “I’d only done a small amount of catamaran sailing before,” says Ardern, who describes his role as floater/pitman. “I had a Formula 18 catamaran and did a few regattas including the Archipelago Raid in Sweden. But getting to sail on the Extreme 40 circuit and on board Ernesto Bertarelli’s 41-footer on Lake Geneva has been a real eye-opener. Experiences like that have been really good for the team and help everyone understand what makes multihulls go faster and how to handle them.”
In terms of performance, nothing that Ardern has sailed before comes close to the speed of Alinghi 5, although he says you have to remind yourself of how fast you are travelling sometimes. “I guess you don’t really have that sensation of speed, you know? You’re always a couple of metres off the water. And even the first time on Lake Geneva when we flew a hull we didn’t realise until a cheer went up from the chase boats following us. But when you start running around on the boat, if you’re up near the front beam or in the back draft of the headsail, that’s where you get flushed out and you suddenly realise the apparent wind generated by the boat speed. Walking round the back of the headsail is like walking into a full gale. So sometimes, you get a real sensation of the speed, and other times not, but you always know that it’s very powerful and something you need to have a lot of respect for.”
Ardern recalls the first time he saw the boat in its finished state. “The first time we saw it on Lake Geneva, Alinghi 5 looked huge. But over time you get used to it, as you spend time on the boat, everything sort of shrinks. That said, every day you go sailing is exciting, it’s a thrill that never leaves you. I think it’s going to be pretty hard to go back to sailing anything else after ripping around on this thing for a year.”
2007 Winner, Alinghi
2003 Winner, Alinghi
2003 Louis Vuitton Cup, winner, Alinghi
2000 Louis Vuitton Cup, Nippon Challenge
1995 Louis Vuitton Cup, TAG Heuer Challenge
1992 Louis Vuitton Cup, finalist, New Zealand Challenge
2008 iShares Cup, winner
2005/2006 Volvo Ocean Race, The Black Pearl
2002/2003 Volvo Ocean Race, SEB
1997/1998 Whitbread Round the World Race, Swedish Match
1993/1994 Whitbread Round the World Race, Tokyo