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Dalton credits ‘brutal’ debrief for campaign

Emirates Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling holds the America’s Cup aloft (Photograph by Gregory Bull/AP)

Grant Dalton said Emirates Team New Zealand had to outthink Oracle Team USA because they knew they could not match their financial might.

The Kiwis chief executive credits his team’s revival to a “pretty brutal” post mortem after their painful collapse against Oracle in San Francisco four years ago.

Dalton said they drew up a 20-point road map, with a heavy emphasis on investing in technology, despite their limited budget compared with Oracle, who are bankrolled by the deep pockets of owner Larry Ellison.

“One of the things we took out of San Francisco was that we were outdesigned,” said Dalton, whose team reclaimed the America’s Cup yesterday.

“We had a pretty brutal debrief after San Fran — the aftermath of that was pretty obvious in the press in New Zealand.

“We came up with 20 points and one of those was investing in technology on a pretty limited budget, and investing in people who could handle that technology. We knew we couldn’t outspend [Oracle]. If they wanted to outspend us seven to one, they would ... we had to outthink them.”

Replacing Dean Barker, the helmsman in 2013, with Peter Burling — who won the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup with NZL Sailing Team that same year — was among the bold moves made by the syndicate.

“We had to get our arms around this new generation of yachtsmen coming through,” Dalton said.

“I’d been talking to Pete pretty early on. We met at my house away from the base and I remember Pete telling me, ‘I want to be the helmsman’.

“I said, ‘We’ve got a bit to go under the bridge here, mate, but we’ll see where we get to.”

Dalton, who was charged with restructuring and revitalising Team New Zealand after their loss to Alinghi in 2003, believes their advances in design and technology have moved the sport forward.

“We said, ‘Let’s throw the ball out as far as we can and see if we can get to it’.

“We had no restrictions on design, and that was really the catchcry within the organisation.

“We’ve achieved some amazing things that have been quite revolutionary in the sport.”

The 59-year-old also praised skipper Glenn Ashby for his “outside-the-box thinking”.

Dalton added: “We were looking at pedalling and I was concerned we hadn’t employed any grinders. But Glenn wouldn’t let us. I remember him saying, ‘If we do that now, we will set up a pattern that will influence the final decision’.”

As the defenders, the Kiwis will now be able to draw up the rules for the next competition.

Dalton said there would be some tough decisions made about the future of the event in the coming weeks.

“We need to make it affordable, but we also need to remember that it’s the America’s Cup and not a beach regatta,” he said.

“Just because we didn’t sign the framework agreement doesn’t mean there weren’t elements that we didn’t agree with. We just didn’t agree with the two-year cycle, for example.

“To me, it’s a privilege to hold the America’s Cup, not a right. We won’t try and impose our will on it to make sure we hold on to it at all costs.”