ETNZ’s IT Manager, Marty Yates, Describes his Two America’s Cups – so far

Local boy Marty Yates grew up learning to sail both in centreboarders and keelers. His father, Tony, was the go-to Pacific Ocean racing navigator in the pre-GPS days. Marty has fond memories of sailing in most classes of local yachts but visiting Great Barrier and the Bay of Islands in a Stewart 34 was among the highlights. He is also a keen cyclist and is looking forward to the completion of the walkway/cycleway from Merton Road to Tamaki Drive.

His early background was in winemaking and included visits to northern Portugal and the Burgundy region. He then did a one year IT diploma at AUT and went on to work at Air New Zealand support desk in Newton for seven years. Then came a one year stint at IBM where he found a strong, but rigid, culture.

Marty’s IT experience then further diversified into the games programming and graphic design fields, where he learned about all the art that goes into web sites. In 2011, he saw an advert on the Seek website for an IT manager of “a sporting organisation”. That “sporting organisation” turned out to be Emirates Team New Zealand! Their culture was not one that some previous managers had been able to cope with but Marty adapted well to the free flowing and frequently changing demands of finding the best solutions for the money available.

Having now experienced two campaigns – in San Francisco in 2013 and in Bermuda this year, Marty compared the two catamaran sizes and performances. The 72 ft cats in San Francisco were big in every way. Their wings were bigger than a A380 wing and, each testing or racing day, it took 25 men to carry one out of the shed onto the crane and then the boat. That and the subsequent setting-up proceedures took the whole morning.

The AC50 cats in Burmuda were smaller and needed less time to prepare each day but their performances matched or exeeded their AC72 predecessors.

The software used at the base was mostly Windows-based and they made extensive use of a key sponsor Hewlett Packard’s hardware (laptops/monitors) throughout. Another key sponsor, Vodafone, supplied the high speed fibre link. At any time, Marty and other analysts had the whole cup campaign’s history represented day-by-day on two huge spreadsheets that they could select and review.

The AC50 was a one-design boat but each syndicate could control their dagger-board and rudder designs, and, in turn, control their key parameters of rake, yaw and cant and finally monitor those using strain and pressure guages and video.

The French were underfunded and came in late and ill-prepared. Although they had a good crew, their early exit was no real surprise.

By contrast, the British effort under Ben Ainslie had five test boats plus the race boat and a budget of 100 million pounds! While they also ultimately failed, they are clearly in it for the long term. Even so, note that ETNZ’s budget was about $NZ50 million – only a quarter as much, yet it was crowned with success.

Marty needed to put the record of the San Francisco challenge straight: neither Dean Barker nor the crew “choked”.  By the time they had built up to the 8-1 lead, they had come to the end of their development line and simply couldn’t improve any further. Oracle, by contrast, had many more resourses, kept on improving their boat right to the end and, just in time, learned how they should have been sailing that inherently faster boat all along. That said, in the key race where ETNZ were leading but the race was called off because of the lack of time to finish in the light airs, the organiser could and should have pre-shortened the course as he was later to do, routinely, in Bermuda. Had he done so, ETNZ would have won in San Francisco in 2013.

Like San Francisco, Bermuda was a good venue. It has huge lagoon and is not very tidal. As with previous campaigns, the legendary Roger (“Clouds”) Badham was ETNZ’s weather forcaster.  He was already in Bermuda in May-June of 2016 and, with his day-by-day observations, together with a detailed analysis of Bermuda’s weather records going back decades, he was confident that the winds in June would be very light. That prediction, upon which ETNZ based much of their design and racing fine tuning, proved to be very accurate. Oracle, by contrast, anticipated stronger winds than transpired and that proved to be costly for them.

Marty answered many questions from members. After the big capsize at the start of the race with the British, Grant Dalton announced that, if necessary, they could be ready to sail the next day. That was, as the team privately knew, a bold bluff – neither the wing sails nor the boat itself were ready and the second day’s grace was very welcome.

They arrived in Bermuda fairly late but had been training long and hard here in Auckland, mostly near Maraetai, facing Waiheke, and avoiding the heavy tides from the channel.

While the Australians were the first non Americans to win the Auld Mug in 1983, they failed to defend it. We are the first non-Americans to win it (1995) and retain it (2000) and now (eventually) win it back. So we are the defenders again and our defence is likely to be in January and February of 2021. The rules will probably insist that all members of the crew must have residency in the challenging country. Oracle had only one American in their nominated crew and he wasn’t even on the boat! Australians comprised most of Oracle’s crew and, over celebratory drinks in the ETNZ tent, Aussie and Kiwi accents were virtually the only ones heard! Likewise, the challenging country must, in future, build their boat using that country’s own resources. Aoteoroa was built by Southern Spars and ETNZ also used a lot of very small, local machine shops, some of which are also associated with New Zealand’s fledgling space industry, centred around Rocket Lab.

Marty could neither confirm nor deny that foiling monohulls would be needed for the higher winds around the Harbour and Gulf, nor that “cyclors” – who were really there just to maintain the hydraulic pressure needed for Aoteoroa’s controls – might prove to be a one-off phenomenon of the Bermuda campaign. Again, a possible return to the use of mains, jibs, gennakers and spinnakers, with their associated use of winches and human grinders to power them, are one of the many key details that Grant Dalton and other officials are undoubtedly discussing. In any event, what most dedicated America’s Cup fans would not welcome would be if it were to become too much like just another yachting regatta and/or just a “wet” version of the now highly internationised Formula One series.

In this post-cup “lull”, Marty is multi-tasking between local PC support (including for the likes of us) but is still keeping an eye on ETNZ. He will ramp back up to full time with the team again around January or February of next year.

Chairman Noel Thompson proposed a vote of thanks, which was carried by acclamation. In presenting Marty with our traditional selection of wine, Noel quipped that he hoped it would meet with his expert approval. It did and Marty stayed on long afterwards, chatting with individual members over our equally traditional tea and biscuits.

Wayne Power


* Marty’s own website is at

* Marty’s gmail is

Leave a Reply