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Team Blog

Opportunities keep coming for grinder


Derek Saward (right) grinding with Winston Macfarlane …. happy in his work.

Sometimes Derek Saward can’t quite believe his luck. He’s a grinder on the sailing team and the 34th America’s Cup will be his first.

His route to the America’s Cup and the Emirates Team New Zealand challenge was as an amateur sailor who just happened to sail a few times with Dean Barker, James Dagg and Jeremy Lomas on the RC44 circuit.

“A lot of good opportunities came my way – and kept coming,” he says.

“I didn’t come into the team with a huge amount of expectation,” he says. “and I couldn’t have hoped for anything more.”

He’s also the AC72 boat captain, responsible for ensuring the yacht is ready to go sailing – maintenance performed, repairs done and development work completed.

But, he says, the AC72 is still very much at a development stage and that involves a lot of people with a lot of input. “I have to make sure than everyone gets the  time and opportunity to do the work they need on the boat.”

Derek grew up on Waiheke Island, living in and around the water. “I sailed on Waiheke through my school years, with the local club and a bit of inter-school stuff yachting.

“When I left school that I got more and more into it and then I was lucky enough to do the RC44s for three years as an amateur with a Japanese team after doing an ocean crossing with the same owner. From there my life evolved into professional sailing.”

Like the rest of the Emirates Team New sailing team, Derek had not had much multihull experience. “I did a little bit of multihull sailing sailing on a Paper Tiger when I was younger and I helped a couple of friends sailed a 30ft multihull from the Bay of Islands to Nelson.

He has become  an AC72 enthusiast: “Everyone was a little on edge for the first few days wondering how controllable and how physical the big cat was going to be.  “I don’t think anyone has been that surprised about how physical and demanding it is on board – but it’s fantastic.  “

You’ve got to pinch yourself when you’re out there doing a day’s yachting; remind yourself this is actually your job”.

“We work long hours but I came into it with my eyes wide open. There’s a huge amount of work to do and not a lot of time to do it, the only way you get it done is by creating more hours.”

His immediate ambition is to be able to sit back towards the end of next year and reflect on a job well done.


  1. great interview and insight into a sailor’s life for us who don’t know well the sailing passion. thanks and can’t wait to see y’all in SF Bay in a few more months!!!

    fototaker in SF - December 30, 2012 at 11:53 am
  2. We New Zealanders are in admiration of this steady flat foiling that ETNZ has shown. It seems so controlled and meant to be. You guys make it look so easy!!

    Peter Sharpe - December 30, 2012 at 12:51 pm
  3. Ahoy. Good luck to you Derek, Dean and all of the team. I’m waiting for it i tell you and hope you clean up as i know you can. Our fishing skipper was a personal friend of Sir Peter Blake and he was E-mailing us when they won in 99. We were steaming to Wellington NZ at the time our crew was so wrapped. Hopefully another incredible win for New Zealand. Happy New year to all and be safe.

    Carl - December 30, 2012 at 1:29 pm
  4. Kia kaha …. Make 2013 the year the Cup came home!

    Roger Boshier - December 30, 2012 at 4:46 pm
  5. You’re living your dream, Derek. Fantastic. May you be part of the victorious America’s Cup team in 2013 and involved in its next defence. How exciting that would be. Still pinching yourself I don’t dought.

    dgrogan - January 4, 2013 at 12:57 pm
  6. Hi Derek, not being a follower of sailing (sorry) got a surprise to see your name on TV tonight as there are not that many of us around down here- must be long lost cuzzie frm Sth Is!
    Very good luck to you anyway and see you are grinding with a Macfarlane even if its spelt differently….
    Cheers Helen

    Helen McFarlane (nee Saward) - August 19, 2013 at 6:50 pm

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