Rowing great Hamish Bond has signed with Team New Zealand for the defense of the America’s Cup, seeing it as “an opportunity not to be missed”.
Triple Olympic gold medalist Bond will use his enormous rowing fitness and proven cycling skills that earned him a Commonwealth Games bronze medal in the 2018 time trial to be in the “cyclors” unit that will power the Kiwi boat at Barcelona 2024.
Team New Zealand have bolstered their engine room for the foiling 75-foot monohull with other cross-code athletes. Bond is joined by Dougal Allan, a double Coast to Coast winner; former professional road cyclist and mountain biker Louis Crosby; and world championship rower Cameron Webster.
Back from the defense of the Cup at Auckland 2021 are former cyclist Simon van Velthooven, and grinders Louis Sinclair, Marcus Hansen and Marius van der Pol.
Olympic bronze medalist Laser sailor Sam Meech has also proven himself in the exhaustive power testing process that was conducted during selection trials last December.
The 36-year-old Bond, who also won eight world titles in rowing, is enthused with his latest sporting reincarnation, declaring: “There’s a little bit of life left in the old dog”.
His interest was pricked when he was returning from the Tokyo Olympics having won gold in the men’s eight and heard that “cylors” were returning to the Cup scene.
But with his wife Lizzie starting a fellowship in orthopaedic surgery at Duke University in North Carolina in the United States, he didn’t see how the logistics could work out.
Communications with Team New Zealand revealed the timeline meant he could get involved if he passed their strict tests.
“It lit the flame,” Bond told Stuff.
Retaining “decent shape” as he looked after the couple’s three young children, Bond upped his fitness program to prepare for the exhaustive pre-Christmas tests.
His rowing and cycling background gave him a unique power ratio for his weight. While the other hopefuls had their trials with the encouragement of fellow Team New Zealand members in Auckland, Bond went at it solo, with his data feeding back remotely.
“It was one of the harder tests I’ve done over the course of my career. The race simulation was very challenging. There was a lot of suffering, but you back yourself to keep going, and your experience helps you pace yourself,” he said.
Bond will continue to train in the United States before joining the team in Auckland. With cyclors not required on the current smaller testing boats, he has plenty of time to stay tuned for his next challenge of getting on the big Cup boat.
He has followed Team New Zealand’s progress in the America’s Cup avidly, starting as a nine-year-old in the red socks days of Sir Peter Blake in 1995. Olympic gold medal single culler Rob Waddell’s inclusion in three Cups from 2003 provided an affinity as a budding rower and the cyclors of 2017 were another dimension that intrigued him as foiling increased.
Bond has no yachting background and has toyed with the idea of doing some dinghy sailing but concedes there can be no comparison with what’s in store for him in boats that are pushing close to 100kph.
“It would be like going downhill in a trolley and then stepping into a Formula One car.”
With no actual sailing role on the AC75, Bond will be content to get to grips with the speed and safety requirements during what will be extensive practice sessions ahead of Barcelona.
Team New Zealand has a successful history of including athletes from other areas for this crucial power area, including Waddell; gold medal double sculler Joseph Sullivan; swimmer, kayaker and surf lifesaver Steven Ferguson; and Van Velthooven who transferred his medal-winning track cycling skills to be one of the original cyclors in the Cup win at Bermuda 2017.
Team New Zealand trainer Kim Simperingham was thrilled with the caliber of trialists and the eventual selections from tests that were a combination of short maximum power outputs as well as longer endurance tests.
“We had a really interesting week of cyclor testing for our existing sailing team as well as a list of potential new candidates, all of whom took their bodies to their absolute limits for the tests,” he said.
“The two main physical qualities we were looking for are athletes that can sustain a really high power output for the length of a race – up to about half an hour – and athletes that can also achieve really high peaks in power, that will be used for the maneuvers during races.”
AT A GLANCE – TEAM NZ’S NEW CYCLORS
Dougal Allan: An international multi-sport champion with 15 years experience. A two-time winner of New Zealand’s Coast to Coast who is course record holder of Challenge Wanaka.
Hamish Bond: One of New Zealand’s most decorated athletes known for his exceptional dedication, focus and commitment to succeed. A three time Olympic Gold medalist in rowing with back-to-back titles in the men’s coxless pair in 2012 and 2016 with Eric Murray. They also won eight world championships. Bond switched to the eight to claim his third Olympics gold at Tokyo 2020. He has also competed at high levels in cycling, winning a 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze in the road cycling time trial.
Louis Crosby: A former professional cyclist who was part of Pure Black Racing competing internationally on the US and South-East Asia circuits. He moved into mountain bike racing and multi-sport competition.
Cameron Webster: Part of the elite Rowing New Zealand squad between 2016-2020, contesting world championships across pairs, fours and eights. She finished competitive rowing in 2022 and is completing a law degree while starting her cyclor role.