While Emirates Team New Zealand’s sailing crew relies on skill and the wind to win races, it is the reliable horsepower of Yamaha engines that backs them up and makes it possible for them to do their job.
Yamaha has, for 25 years, provided the powerful, reliable chase boat engines that have supported New Zealand America’s Cup campaigns. For all of those years, Yamaha’s vastly experienced technical manager, Hugh Stewart, has ensured that all of those engines run flawlessly.
'Hugh does all the Emirates Team New Zealand service works and always has,' says ETNZ power fleet manager, Chris Salthouse. 'We always follow his recommendations.'
Hugh Stewart says the work is rarely difficult. 'I can’t remember a major problem.'
'In fact, there’s never been a serious issue with any of the engines, just new oil filters and an occasional impeller or two needed for the water pumps.'
Chris Salthouse says Hugh Stewart’s support extends well beyond servicing the engines.
'Should a problem arise when we’re on the water, I phone Hugh and he provides all the information I need for an instant fix. Then, when we’re back at the dock, Hugh turns up to check everything’s okay.'
The America’s Cup move to super-fast AC72 catamarans means there are now more Yamaha engines hard at work that ever before.
As Chris Salthouse explains, every time the ETNZ AC72 leaves the dock, five RIBs are in close attendance.
'Two small Protectors – dubbed the tugs – push and pull the yacht in the desired direction. Our 13.7-metre (45ft) catamaran chase boat, Chase 1, is rafted alongside for extra push and shove if necessary and chase boats 2 and 3 are never far away.'
The ETNZ power fleet is now nine strong: that big catamaran and eight Protector RIBs ranging in size from 12.5 metres down to the 5-metre tugs.
All are powered by Yamaha outboards. Chase 1 has four 300hp V6 outboards while the other boats are powered by Yamahas ranging from the very powerful flagship 350hp V8 outboards to the modest 60hp four-strokes that power the little tugs.
'Chase 1 has already done 300 hours in the six months since it was launched,' explains Chris Salthouse. 'Although the engines don’t have to work particularly hard, that is still a lot of hours in a short time.
'On the other hand, the engines on other boats have to work very hard to keep up with that powerful cat. They often run pretty close to full throttle all day.'
He says this is in stark contrast to previous America’s Cup campaigns.
'In the monohull days, the chase boats averaged just 10 knots on most days. Now, they’re averaging 25 to 30 knots.
'However, thanks to Hugh’s dedication and Yamaha’s legendary reliability, it’s easy to keep them in top operational condition.'