Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Yachting: Team NZ offer glimpse of big cat

Grant Dalton says Team New Zealand are 'figuring it out as we go' in preparing their new catamaran. Photo / Natalie Slade
Grant Dalton says Team New Zealand are 'figuring it out as we go' in preparing their new catamaran. Photo / Natalie Slade

Team New Zealand have become the first team competing in next year's America's Cup to offer a glimpse of their new, state-of-the-art AC72 catamaran.

Then again, there was never any chance they could hide it.

The giant multihull was assembled for the first time yesterday, with the 40m wingsail wheeled from its tent and fitted to the platform in a delicate operation involving 30 Team New Zealand staff, a 50m mobile crane and one extremely nervous crane operator.

Upright and in position for the first time, the wing towered over the base and could be seen from buildings and streets around the Viaduct Harbour.

Curious onlookers stopped and watched from outside the team's base in Halsey St, while from the other side of the Viaduct Harbour photographers were shooting the action at the base.

The wing and rigging underwent load testing for several hours yesterday before being dismantled and tucked away ahead of Saturday's public launch ceremony.

Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton had hoped to take the AC72 out for its maiden sail by now, but putting all the components together has proved more complex than first thought.

But Dalton is comforted by the fact that his competitors are, so to speak, in the same boat.

"We're basically just figuring it out as we go," said Dalton. "We're a week or so behind - and that's just because of the complexity of this boat - but I don't think anyone is ahead of us at this stage. We've seen no other wings in the air with boats under them."

Although they are further advanced than their three rivals for the 34th America's Cup, they have a tight testing schedule ahead. The team have less than a year to learn to sail the boat, develop it and get their second boat on the water.

Under the cost-containment rules governing the next America's Cup, the first AC72 can be sailed for only 30 days between launch and January 31.

That means Team New Zealand must carefully choose their opportunities to take the boat out, ensuring the weather will allow them to make the most of their sailing hours.

Under the rule, a day starts once the towline is attached to the boat, so it could be five minutes of sailing or 12 hours.

"Every time we take the boat out it has to be deep and meaningful, we won't just go out there for a potter about," said Dalton.

Cup defenders Oracle are expected to launch their first boat in the next few weeks, but have scuppered plans to sail it in New Zealand this summer.

Oracle had originally planned to train out of Marsden Pt in Northland, but have said their emphasis in their "boat testing and development cycle" has changed.

"Extending our summer and fall training session in San Francisco effectively closed the New Zealand window," team general manager Grant Simmer said.

"The merits of Marsden Pt as a sailing venue have not changed, it is only our priorities that have changed."

Dalton believes Oracle's sudden change of plans indicates the syndicate have fallen behind schedule with their construction.

"It feels to me that they are probably behind schedule because these things are so damned complicated."

- NZ Herald

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