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Ashby excited by challenge that lies ahead

Excited by the challenge: Glenn Ashby Emirates Team New Zealand helmsman(Photo by Colin Thompson)

Glenn Ashby could barely keep his competitive instincts in check as he observed Oracle Team USA and Artemis Racing flying around the Great Sound in their AC45s yesterday.

The Emirates Team New Zealand helmsman spent several hours running the rule over the sailing venue for the 35th America’s Cup along with team-mates Jeremy Lomas and Richard Meacham while Oracle, defender of the ‘Auld Mug’, and Artemis, the Swedish challenger, practised in their wing-sail foiling 45ft development catamarans.

“Artemis and Oracle were sailing out there so it was actually great to get out there and see some boats sailing on the Great Sound,” Ashby said. “The sun was out and there was a light breeze blowing so to get out there and have a good look at the lay of the land was great. The water clarity is fantastic and it’s a lovely venue.”

The consensus among the America’s Cup sailors who have had the opportunity to gauge the Great Sound so far is that the racecourse will be tight for the high speed AC45s and AC48s.

Ashby, who is a multiple world multihull champion, agrees.

“It does look tight,” he said. “But we are all into the sailing and we all love racing so no matter where the racing is we are really keen to get into it.

“Obviously which direction the wind blows determines how tight the course will be on the day, and it seems to be a little shiftier than San Francisco at times. Looking at Oracle and Artemis sailing around it, it’s certainly going to be an interesting place.”

Local sailing enthusiasts will get a first taste of competitive America’s Cup action when the America’s Cup World Series comes to town in October, with racing to be contested in new one-design foiling AC45 catamarans.

“I think with the foiling AC45s it will be super spectacular and having a few boats sailing together will be great,” Ashby said. “All the boats foiling off the start line together to the first mark will be a fantastic spectacle, and we are looking forward to getting to the racing.”

The opening regatta of the America’s Cup World Series will take place in Portsmouth, England — home port of British challenger Ben Ainslie Racing — between July 23 and 26.

The transition from the conventional 45ft catamarans sailed in the previous America’s Cup World Series to the new foiling version has been a learning curve for the Cup teams.

“There are certainly a lot of skills and techniques to learn from going from the existing sort of displacement club sailing in the multihulls to the new foiling technology,” said Ashby, who won the 33rd America’s Cup with Oracle Team USA’s forerunner BMW Oracle Racing. “But at the end of the day the good sailors always cross over well.

“There’s a lot of people learning through all different types of boats now how to foil quickly, and what makes the boat get around the track the best.

“I think by the time we get to the first World Series event in Portsmouth everyone will be pretty much on their game.”