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Olympic cyclist lauds Team NZ catamaran

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 16/02/2017

Olympic track medallist Simon van Velthooven reckons Team New Zealand's catamaran isn't a boat at all.

"This isn't sailing, this is a war machine," van Velthooven told reporters in Auckland at the Kiwi syndicate's launch of their AC50 craft to challenge for the America's Cup.

The recruitment and role of 28-year-old van Velthooven is at the heart of the most innovative visual feature of the boat.

Gone are arm-driven grinders' pedestals to drive the boat's hydraulics.

In their place are leg-powered "pedalstals" which Team NZ hope will provide a speed edge at the regatta in Bermuda starting in May.

A bronze medallist in the keirin at the 2012 London Olympics, powerhouse sprinter van Velthooven was approached by Team NZ officials a year ago when he missed selection for the track cycling world championships.

He has played a key role in testing and his raw power could yet see him included in a finalised six-man crew which competes in Bermuda.

Van velthooven said that would complete a childhood daydream.

"As a kid growing up I knew about the America's Cup long before I knew about track cycling. There's a huge legacy for New Zealand with the America's Cup," he said.

"My uncle had a boat, I've done Outward Bound and I know the terms.

"(But) this is not a sail boat at all, there's nothing like it in the world."

The makeup of the Kiwi crew will be confirmed closer to the start of the Challenger series, following a month of testing on the Hauraki Gulf.

It is widely accepted that Australian Glenn Ashby will be skipper and wing trimmer, with Peter Burling the helsman. Burling's Olympic champion 49er crewmate Blair Tuke will have a multi-functional role.

Other positions will have a grinding element but Team NZ says sailing nous will also be important.

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