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Local cyclists eye Kiwi revolution

Pedal power: The cyling grinding system on Emirates Team New Zealand’s America’s Cup Class boat has raised eyebrows (Photograph by Hamish Hooper)

Local cycling enthusiasts have taken a particular interest in the 35th America’s Cup — and it has very little to do with sailing.

The radical pedal grinders on board Emirates Team New Zealand’s America’s Cup Class racing yacht has caught the attention of the local cycling community and virtually turned the America’s Cup design race on its head.

Always ones to push the boundary limits, the Kiwis have broken away from the status quo and have opted for pedal grinders that generate the power needed to operate the various systems on the boat over traditional arm-powered grinding stations.

“As you know, anything that looks like cycling must be great,” Peter Dunne, the Bermuda Bicycle Association president, said.

“On paper this seems to make sense as legs and hips are stronger than arms and shoulders. So going with the big power muscles seems like a no-brainer. These guys are constantly making us rethink how this race can use technological change to their advantage or maybe just to keep the competition thinking.

“We are looking at this and it’s nice to know that after all those grinding competitions we have witnessed in the last year or so it really is pedal power that makes the difference.”

Team New Zealand’s boat, with its revolutionary grinders, was christened and launched in Auckland in February.

“Winning the next America’s Cup is all about maintaining a stable flight on the entire racecourse and that’s the reason why this boat contains some of the most innovative and powerful technology ever used in this competition in its systems, electronics, hydraulics and foil designs,” Dan Bernasconi, the Team New Zealand techincal director, said.

“When we sat down to think about the overall design of this boat three years ago the benefits of cycling opposed to regular grinding were obvious, but certainly not without issues and difficulty with functionality.

“This is what we have been working incredibly hard on overcoming for the past three years.”

While the Kiwis believe they have a special weapon on their hands, there are those such as rival skippers Dean Barker (SoftBank Team Japan) and Jimmy Spithill (Oracle Team USA) who have their doubts over the radical pedal grinders.

“We evaluated it and didn’t think it would pay for itself,” Barker, the former Team New Zealand skipper, said. “Something pretty much all the teams have considered.”

Spithill, the youngest skipper to win the coveted “Auld Mug”, added: “We looked at it hard, as I know all the teams did, and it’s a compromise. Nothing is straightforward.

“You can get more power on the pedal, but there’s other compromises.”

Team New Zealand’s AC Class yacht will be flown to Bermuda on an Emirates cargo plane and is due to arrive next week.