Luna Rossa launch their AC72 America's Cup yacht in Auckland tomorrow and there was considerable symbolism in the fact that, within sight of their base at the Viaduct today, Team New Zealand's boat was rigged up.
It was an impressive sight, not least of all because they are, until Luna Rossa hit the water next week, the only America's Cup boat still intact.
Holders Oracle sustained major damage to their multi-million-dollar catamaran when they capsized last week and could be off the water until February next year while Sweden's Artemis Racing damaged their beam when towing the boat recently and previously damaged their wing sail. It has delayed their official launch and it's not known when they will hit the water.
It's for this reason Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena said the America's Cup could come down to a question of last man, or in this instance, last boat standing. With only three challengers so far confirmed for next year's event - Team New Zealand, Luna Rossa and Artemis - and the holders, errors will be magnified.
"You are going to win the America's Cup by making less mistakes than the other guy," Sirena said.
Luna Rossa hope they don't make too many. The new breed of America's Cup boats have proved extremely fast but also very difficult to handle and more than a little brittle.
Previously teams could have boats back in the water the next day after sustaining damage but the AC72s take considerably more time and that could prove terminal to a team's chances of winning the America's Cup.
There is still time before the Louis Vuitton Cup starts in July but, with limits on the amount of testing teams can do, time is critical.
Many believe Oracle were pushing too hard when they capsized in San Francisco Bay because the previous day Team New Zealand had tested successfully in 25 knots and Oracle wanted to prove they could excel in strong winds, too.
"The America's Cup is a psychological game," Sirena said. "You have to push the boat. You want to push and show the other guy that you are faster. But it could go wrong pretty easily. We want to avoid that."
Luna Rossa will sail their boat for the first time next week and slowly build up to speed before informal racing with Team New Zealand on the Waitemata Harbour from the middle of next month.
The two syndicates entered an agreement in which Team New Zealand share design and performance data with Luna Rossa until the end of the year in return for financial compensation that will allow Team New Zealand to build a second AC72.
Luna Rossa's boat is identical but will have different equipment like foils, gibs and gennakers and the two teams will also train against each other in Auckland until at least March. Rules prevent them sharing data from testing.
Luna Rossa are committed to competing in next year's America's Cup and the following one but it doesn't mean team principal Patrizio Bertelli approves of the class of boats.
"Whatever solution that makes it more affordable and more interesting for more challengers to participate, that is our favourite solution," said Bertelli who is committing 45 million to Luna Rossa's campaign. "That could be a smaller catamaran or a very fast, lightweight monohull. The starting point is how many challengers do you want for the next America's Cup.
"We should be asking, how much should it all cost? We would love to have more and more young people involved but with this formula there's no space for them.
"Right now it feels like we are going back to the 1930s with the J-Class when they had two or three challengers."
- APNZBy Michael Brown Email Michael