The story of local America's Cup winner Andy Maloney’s last few years in yachting is a special one. Sailing out of the Murrays Bay Sailing Club, Andy became one of New Zealand’s leading small boat sailors, doing well on the world stage in the Laser class (he finished third at the 2012 Laser World Championships) with an ultimate goal of going to the 2016 Rio Olympics. All his efforts and years of training and dedication came down to winning the sole spot to represent New Zealand in the Laser class at Rio. His world came tumbling down when he was pipped for the spot by his mate and rival Sam Meech, the eventual bronze medallist. Ironically, Andy's sister, Alex Maloney, won Silver at the 2016 Rio Olympics in the 49erFX class with Sam Meech's sister, Molly.
At the 2013 America's Cup, Maloney was part of the New Zealand team that won the Youth America's Cup, sailing alongside Peter Burling and Blair Tuke. After the disappointment of missing out on Rio, Andy joined Burling and Tuke at Team New Zealand in November 2016. In a short time he bulked up for a grinding role on the boat. That role turned out to be as a "cyclor", after Team New Zealand innovatively turned to pedal power for grinding. The rest is history, Andy was a key member of the winning crew on sailing every race on the bike just beside Blair Tuke. Channel Mag’s Aidan Bennett caught up with him for a chat during August.
AIDAN BENNETT: Congratulations Andy on playing a part in bringing the cup home, has the size of the achievement truly sunk in yet?
ANDY MALONEY: Yes, it has finally sunk in. Sharing the victory with the country when we arrived home was when it made me realise what a big deal it is to bring the oldest sporting trophy back to New Zealand. Knowing that the 36th America's Cup will be sailed on our home waters in front of the kiwi fans gets me very excited!
AB: You must pinch yourself in how life can change pretty quickly? Just a couple of years ago you were dealing with massive disappointment after missing out on Rio?
AM: Missing out on Rio was devastating at the time. Sam and I pushed each other hard the entire Olympic cycle. I messed up one day of one of our selection events pretty badly, which was all it took. I was stoked to see Sam go on and win an Olympic medal as I knew how hard he worked to get that shot at it. I quickly realised that I had to move on though and find the next challenge. The America's Cup has always been at the top of my sporting goals alongside the Olympics, so when I had an opportunity to get involved, I jumped at it with a ton of motivation.
AB: I’ve heard there is a bit of a story about how you ended up getting on the ETNZ team after the Olympic let-down. How did you end up being part of the team?
AM: I talked with a lot of people I respected after my Olympic disappointment. They all made me realise that I shouldn't settle for anything less than what I really dreamed about being involved in, which was clearly the America's Cup. I approached a few of the key guys within Emirates Team New Zealand and asked if there was any place in the team that they could see me being valuable. They invited me along to join the sailing team in the gym for a couple weeks, which eventually turned into a few more weeks of full time involvement with the team. I was doing anything to help out, trying to show them that I was very dedicated to bringing the Cup back to New Zealand, that I was a highly motivated athlete and keen to be a real team player. One day I got the call to go upstairs after lunch and I was asked to join the team until the end of the campaign in Bermuda. My answer was a no brainer.
AB: You did a lot of gym work I understand and bulked up quite a bit?
AM: I needed to get bigger and more powerful to be useful for a physical role onboard the boat. I dedicated a lot of time to the gym, recovering well, and eating a lot of the right foods at the right times. I put on about 15 kilograms.
AB: At what stage did you learn you would be a cylor and what sort of training did you do in preparation?
AM: It was pretty clear early on that I needed to focus on the lower body and smash out a lot of efforts on the bike. I had plenty of great advice from Hubert the ETNZ trainer, the sprint cyclist in the team Simon, and a couple other guys including a Cycling New Zealand coach. Endurance was my strength when I arrived at ETNZ, so my focus quickly switched to shorter intervals on the WattBike and lower reps in the gym to improve my power.
AB: What was your role on the boat in Bermuda?
AM: I was a 'Cyclor' and offside rake trimmer. My main roles were to help produce the hydraulic pressure to trim all the appendages and control the new daggerboard through manoeuvres.
AB: What do you put the amazing win down to?
AM: A massive team effort by a talented group of people. The design team, engineers, boat builders, shore team, sailing team, management. Everyone was doing everything in their power to make our boat go fast in a short amount of time. The team was clever about what they invested their time and money into, and were not afraid to design a boat that was on the edge.
AB: It looked like the entire team was pretty tight, was that the case?
AM: Yes, every department was willing to step it up when they came under pressure and do their job well. Everyone helped each other out when they could and that made for a very tight unit. I have a huge amount of respect for everyone in the team and the effort they put into making it a successful campaign.
AB: Is Pete Burling the best sailor in the world?
AM: Pistol is an insanely talented sailor. He is also extremely clever and understands every technical element to the design of what was a very complicated boat. Combining the two skills at his level makes him one of the best sailors in the world, in my opinion.
AB: Tell us about the aftermath of the win. What were the highlights of the celebrations for you?
AM: It was a very fun two weeks of celebrating, with the highlight for me being sharing the Cup around the country. It was special to see family, friends and fans line the streets of Auckland. Taking the Cup onto the water and seeing the floatilla of boats was unreal, the fact that everyone toughed it out through the down poor made it even cooler. Auckland was special, but to then see the smile that the Cup put on the faces of all the kids down South was also something I will never forget. The whole experience was amazing. Hopefully we were able to inspire another generation.
AB: What are your plans over the next 2-3 years leading up to the next cup?
AM: I will definitely be doing my best to be a valuable team member for defending the Cup in 2021. The beginning of an America's Cup cycle is very design heavy though, so I will stay switched on by taking on other challenges. The Olympic's is the other side to our sport that is incredibly high performance and I believe makes you a very good sailor. An Olympic campaign for Tokyo 2020 Olympics is definitely in my sights.
AB: Murrays Bay is recognised as one of the great nurseries for young sailors in New Zealand. You have come through their system, your family lived next door to the club for some time. What is so special about the club?
AM: You get a variety of conditions training off Murrays Bay beach which makes it a great place to learn to sail. I have vivid memories of wheeling my Laser out of the garage onto the beach, and being on the water training less than an hour after the school bell ringing. That's pretty unique.
AB: Do you have a sailing mentor or someone you particularly look up to in the sailing world?
AM: I respect a lot of the top sailors within the Olympic sailing scene, knowing how much effort it takes to be at the top of any Olympic class dinghy. I don't have a mentor as such, just a lot of good mates and competitors that I respect.
AB: You’ve done a bit of travelling around the world, what is your favourite destination to travel to outside of New Zealand?
AM: I enjoy going to places that have a lot of outdoor activities to offer. Lake Garda in Italy is up there on my list because of the endless water sports, great bike riding and amazing food.
AB: Do you have a favourite holiday spot in New Zealand?
AM: For the same reasons, I enjoy holidaying in the Bay of Islands or going south to Queenstown.
AB: Complete the following… In 10 years time I will be…
AM: ...enjoying the current challenge, and looking back on previous challenges knowing I gave them 100%.