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Emirates Team NZ Transform America's Cup Boat With Pedal Power

Emirates Team New Zealand have put their America’s Cup rivals in spin this week with a potentially game changing move from arm strength to leg power. 

Rather than traditional upper body grinders to provide the hydraulic power for controlling the massive wingsail and foils on the 50-foot catamaran, the NZ team have installed bikes as cycling grinders, using pedal power to work the hydraulics.

The secret, three-year process of design, build and land testing, has resulted in a revolutionary decision to use cycling grinders, dubbed ‘pedalstals’, with twin four bike set-ups in each hull of the catamaran.   Wattbikes have been integral for the training of the sailors ahead of the race which starts in Bermuda on May 26, and this week featured in a promotional video the team produced showing the exhaustive tests they put their grinding crew through.

Wattbikes have been a fixture at Emirates Team New Zealand for more than a year, ensuring the sailors are physically ready for the massive challenge.  Emirates Team New Zealand yachtsman Richard Meacham explained: “The Wattbikes have been a massive part in the physical preparation of our sailors for this year’s America’s Cup. Being able to put in some huge training rides on the Wattbike in the confines of our team base has helped keep what has been a huge secret in the design innovation the team has produced with the pedestals, and the results of the guys power and endurance is testament to the effectiveness they have bought to the campaign.”

One new NZ crew member that knows all about power cycling is Simon van Velthooven, an Olympic Track Cycling bronze medallist from London 2012. He says it’s been a big learning curve for both the team but results are coming; “their numbers have improved exponentially and so have mine. We’ve become huge, powerful beasts with endurance!”

Richard Gee, Wattbike’s Distributor in New Zealand, commented: “The team chose the Wattbike as one of its primary training devices over a year ago, and they’ve trained and tested the ‘grinding’ crew on the machines ever since. With accurate wattage read out, left leg and right leg comparisons, angle of peak force and crank rotation efficiency data all available as standard, along with simple positional adjustability and multiple levels of resistance, the Wattbike was an obvious choice.”

The team spent March testing in Auckland before the boat was shipped to Bermuda, where the crew continued to train, develop and refine technique ahead of the first race in the challengers’ series on May 26.