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.