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America's Cup: Last Cup for long time Team NZ weather guru

by Suzanne McFadden 8 Mar 2021 01:06 GMT 8 March 2021
Emirates Team New Zealand- Training - America's Cup 36 - Course E © Richard Gladwell / Sail-World.com

Newsroom's and long time America's Cup correspondent, Suzanne McFadden chats with Roger ‘Clouds’ Badham, Emirates Team New Zealand’s trusted weatherman now on his tenth and last Cup campaign

The weather guru who's helped Team NZ skippers call the shots for more than two decades hopes his final forecasts will be winners.

When Te Rehutai first glides into the America’s Cup start box on Wednesday, Clouds will be sitting on a hill somewhere overlooking the Hauraki Gulf, looking at, well, clouds.

Roger ‘Clouds’ Badham, Emirates Team New Zealand’s trusted weatherman for 21 years, prefers not to go out on the water.

From his vantage point up high, he can see a much bigger picture – reading the water and the sky to help Team NZ’s brains trust out on the racecourse make the crucial right decisions off the start-line.

Predicting what Auckland’s ever-changing weather will do next, Badham relays what he sees to Team NZ’s back-up helmsman and coach, Ray Davies, who’s on a chase boat right next to Te Rehutai. Up until five minutes before the pre-start dance begins, Davies can pass that knowledge on to Team NZ skipper Peter Burling and his afterguard.

“In Bermuda [in 2017], I had a favourite hill I went to every day, because there was only one racecourse. The trouble here is there are five bloody racecourses,” Badham says.

(A straight-talking kind of guy, he was given his nickname early in his 38-year Cup career, when he told sailors “Look at the bloody clouds, you idiots!”)

From North Head, Orakei or Castor Bay, Badham tries to co-ordinate ‘the big picture’ - taking what he sees, relating it to the wind observations on his computer and the guidance of the long-term weather models.

“You’re looking at a short-term forecast of how things are going to pan out for the first 30 minutes of the race,” he says. "It’s amazing how different it is on every one of the five racecourses."

Clouds’ advice has been an essential part of Team NZ’s campaigns since 2000. The Australian weather guru, now in his early 70s, has a doctorate in numerical meteorology and the respect of the sailing world.

This is his 10th America’s Cup campaign – having started with Australian Alan Bond’s historic Cup victory in 1983. “And it’s my last one. Ten America’s Cups is enough,” he says.

Badham has been involved from the get-go of Team NZ's campaign. “First guy in, one of the last standing,” he says. Weather models he’s collected over years on the Hauraki Gulf helped in the design of the AC75 foiling monohull and its many parts.

Badham was working in Auckland last summer until New Zealand went into Level 4 lockdown, and he managed to return home to New South Wales where he lives with his wife, Margaret.

For decades, Clouds has been legendary in the sailing world for guiding boats around the globe – like Grant Dalton’s record-setting Club Med – while at home deep in the Australian rainforest. He liked being completely surrounded by his 12 hectares of trees, unable to see the weather.

Three years ago, the Badhams moved to the small seaside of village of Coledale, just north of Wollongong. “I miss the privacy of the bush,” he says.

Even during the seven months he was back in Australia, Badham was able to provide Team NZ with forecasts every day.

“I reckon I could do 90 percent of my job from home. But the other 10 percent is the bit that you need most,” he says. Like sitting on a hill and watching the clouds.

The sailing fraternity is a close-knit bunch. In 1977, Badham was working as a meteorologist in Sydney, providing forecasts for Channel 7, when he made his first foray into the marine world, calling the weather for fellow Iain Murray’s successful 18ft skiff campaigns.

Today Murray is the America’s Cup race director, who gets to make calls on whether racing goes ahead based on the weather.

For the rest of this story click here

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