If Team New Zealand want some tips on how to make their catamaran go faster, they could do worse than have a word with Murray Philpott.
The Christchurch sailor is chasing his 11th national A class cat title in the nationals which start at Lyttelton on Monday, and finished fifth in a fleet of 130 at the world championships in the Florida Keys in October.
And he's got a hot new boat.
Cat sailors traditionally have the same reputation for weird eccentricity in their sport that soccer goalkeepers enjoy, but the advent of giant catamarans for the America's Cup has given them new respectability.
It was a breath of fresh air for A class, said Philpott.
"It's refreshed the class and lots of young guys are getting into it with the thought that they need that experience under their belts," he said.
"It looks great on the resume for professional sailing. One chap at the nationals will be Blair Tuke, who was the silver medallist from the Olympics last year in the skiff."
Philpott, 52, has been sailing A class since 1989, and as well as his score of national titles he's been a consistent performer at the worlds with a best position of runner-up in 1990 at Napier.
The As are a development class, and he reckons they're 20 per cent faster today than when he started.
"It's like looking at a Ford Anglia against the latest Mercedes. The rig's been the same the last 20 years with a carbon fibre mast and high roach sail, but they've just got lighter and stiffer, and much faster.
"Technique has changed, too - we're sailing them in a completely different way now, trying to sail on one hull everywhere, upwind and downwind. Twenty years ago you used to have a bit of a rest downwind, but it's no longer the case."
Philpott took delivery of new carbon fibre hulls to the DNA design in the Netherlands last year and debuted the boat at the European championships at Lake Garda, Italy, then "went on a Tiki Tour" to Islamorada, Florida, for the worlds. The boat was unloaded back in New Zealand on December 31, and Philpott has had it out about four times this month preparing for the nationals, at which his 19-year-old son Daniel will also compete.
Only about 14 boats will race at Lyttelton - a far cry from the fleet of 130 in Florida.
Philpott won his last title three years ago at Wanaka, with Team New Zealand's American chief designer Peter Melvin - who has won the world A class title twice - winning last year at Whitianga, and another Team New Zealand man, performance analyst Luc du Bois, a Swiss, winning the previous season.
With Team New Zealand taking delivery of its second AC72 catamaran this week, team members can't get away to the nationals this time, leaving Philpott as the man to beat, although he'll be pushed by Aucklander Mike Drummond (born in Christchurch), who finished one place behind him at the worlds.
Now retired, Drummond has been inducted into the America's Cup hall of fame after being part of four cup-winning teams with Team New Zealand and Oracle.
Adding interest to the nationals is the fact Takapuna will host the next worlds in February 2014. However, there will be no trials to qualify - the worlds will be an open contest.