America's Cup 2021: Protecting Team New Zealand talent key to ongoing success, say sailing experts

While New Zealand basks in the glory of a fourth America's Cup win, thoughts have already turned to how they can ensure a second consecutive defence, and more specifically, protect their wealth of world class talent.

On Wednesday, skipper Peter Burling and his crew led Emirates Team New Zealand to a 7-3 series triumph in Auckland, locking up the 'Auld Mug' for four more years.

According to former Team NZ sailor Glen Sowry, hopes of a 'three-peat' rest primarily on fending off the inevitable off-shore offers to ensure Burling and his core of elite sailors avoid going the way of skipper Russell Coutts and tactician Brad Butterworth in 2000, who were both poached by Alinghi after successful campaigns with New Zealand.

"The critical thing for 'New Zealand Inc.' is to protect and retain the talent in the team," Sowry tells AM Show.

"We cannot let what happened in 2000 happen again, where there's a raid on the talent.

"As long as we can hold that together and the chemistry around every part of the team - we've just got to maintain the nucleus around that."

After dispatching Alinghi 5-0 in 2000, Coutts and Butterworth were able to completely reverse that result as members of the Swiss boat against Team NZ three years later, proving what kind of impact just a couple of master cogs can have on a challenger's fortunes.

And it won't just be the on-boat talent who will be targeted by rival syndicates, adds AUT sailing professor Mark Orams.

"We'd like to think that history won't repeat," says Orams.  

"But let's not forget that we've got some of the world's wealthiest people who are looking at what little old New Zealand has been able to achieve. 

"You've got some experienced and very, very talented people on the boat, but you've also got people like [designer] Dan Bernusconi - heart and soul key leaders within that team.

"The classic raiding technique is that if you get that talent, you weaken your opponent and you strengthen yourself."

Olympic gold medallist and former America's Cup sailor Nathan Outteridge believes that while the likes of Burling and cohort Blair Tuke will certainly be tabled lucrative offers to jump ship, he doesn't see either being lured elsewhere.

"Of course they'll get targeted," says Outteridge. "At the end of every Cup, whoever wins there's always offers on the table.

"I'm sure they would love to stay with Team NZ, and Pete and Blair are very loyal to their country, so I can't see them going anywhere."

The consistency in Burling and his team's constant quest for improvement has been at the core of their success, establishing an ethos that has made them a daunting proposition for any challenger, Oram adds.

"The culture of this team is that they have a relentless pursuit of continual improvement  - not just the design side but the way the whole sailing crew operates," says Orams.

"They had the same kind of approach but it's very hard to touch a team that's already had that sitting as part of its ethos for several decades.

"That team has developed a very special synergy and that's hard to compete against."