Tom Schnackenberg, from New Zealand, has a unique record as a principal participant in three landmark America’s Cup victories from Down Under. Schnackenberg made a major contribution, in 1983, when Australia II became the first yacht to take the America’s Cup away from the USA, breaking the Defenders’ 132-year-grip on the Cup and turning the America’s Cup world upside down. Both before and after that success, Schnackenberg produced important innovations in sail design and production technology. This included developing software that calculated how to shape the seams in a sail to produce a pre-determined 3D shape, and the introduction of leech-cut and tri-radial genoas. During the Fremantle defense, Schnackenberg introduced the Gennaker to the America’s Cup community as a downwind racing sail. Eight years later with Team New Zealand, utilizing his scientific and academic disciplines, Tom headed a talented design team.
Every decision in the development of Team New Zealand’s BLACK MAGIC yachts had to answer a simple, but rigorously imposed, question: does it make the boat go faster? Another vital ingredient of BLACK MAGIC’s stellar performance was the total integration of all aspects of the program and Schnackenberg embodied that with his dual roles, both leading the design team and sailing in the afterguard as navigator. Team New Zealand’s win in 1995 marked the second time the Cup left U.S. shores. In 2000, the challenge was for Team New Zealand to become the first non-U.S. syndicate to successfully defend the Cup. Once again, as design team coordinator and navigator, Tom Schnackenberg played a central role in achieving that goal. Team New Zealand’s 5-0 victory over PRADA meant that successive generations of BLACK MAGIC yachts notched up an unprecedented 10-0 record in America’s Cup matches.