She can "fly" at speeds of up to 100km/h, took a combined 55,000 man hours to create and cost millions of dollars to build.

Now, Sir Ben Ainslie has launched the boat that he hopes will win the America's Cup back for Great Britain, 166 years after it left.

After years spent tinkering away in secret back at their Portsmouth headquarters, Rita - arguably one of the most sophisticated sail boats ever built and certainly one of the fastest - was officially unveiled yesterday by Land Rover BAR beneath leaden skies at their new temporary base in Bermuda.

It will be a few days yet before Ainslie and his crew sail Rita for the first time.


And rather like F1 cars that break ground for the first time in winter testing, the final product will, in many respects, bear little resemblance to what we saw this week.

Sir Ben Ainslie, skipper of LandRover BAR, launches the new Land Rover BAR R1 race yacht 'RITA' in Bermuda. Photo/Getty Images
Sir Ben Ainslie, skipper of LandRover BAR, launches the new Land Rover BAR R1 race yacht 'RITA' in Bermuda. Photo/Getty Images

The control systems on board, for instance, will be continually refined over the next few months, right up until the start of the final qualifying series in May and - hopefully - the Cup match itself in June.

But to all intents and purposes, this marked the start of the final run-in to the 35th America's Cup. Land Rover BAR have now revealed their hand and their rivals will have been watching intently.

The first of the six America's Cup teams to launch their race boat, Ainslie's team will hope to be first come the finish.

It was a slightly inauspicious start, if truth be told.

"I name this boat Rita, may God bless her and all who sail on her," declared Georgie Ainslie - Sir Ben's wife - to loud applause, as she released a bottle of champagne from a specially-designed contraption in the general direction of the 50ft, 2400kg catamaran.

Almost inevitably, after all the build-up, the bottle did not smash as intended. Being made of a special carbon fibre composite material, the boat's designers did not actually want a whacking great bottle of champagne hitting the hull, so it was meant to hit a sort of metal pole just in front of the boat.

And there were a few awkward moments, as the rig was re-armed and the bottle relaunched, again without success.

No-one much minded, though. Watching on, husband Ben and baby daughter Bellatrix saw the funny side.

"Let's hope the campaign goes more smoothly than that did," Ainslie laughed, as the bottle was finally put out of its misery by a nearby crew member wielding a hammer.

Safe to say, the technology on the boat is a lot more advanced than that on the champagne-launcher.

Rita is named, like all of Ainslie's boats right through his five Olympic campaigns, for the Catholic saint whose pin badge his mother sewed on to his lifejacket at the 1992 Optimist World Championships in Tenerife.

It has been developed in collaboration with Land Rover, giving the team access to the British car manufacturer's Computational Fluid Dynamics [CFD] capabilities and wind tunnel.

To the naked eye, it looks like a slightly smaller version of the AC72 catamarans that competed at the 34th America's Cup in San Francisco in 2013, which Ainslie won when he came on board Oracle Team USA's boat midway through the final series against Emirates Team NZ, helping the Americans overturn an 8-1 deficit.

Like that boat, this one uses a carbon-fibre wingsail. Like that boat, it sports hydrofoils that help to lift the boat's hulls out of the water when the wind gets up.

In most other respects, though, it is a quantum leap forward.

Not for nothing is the America's Cup now being billed as "F1 on water". These boats are frighteningly expensive - Land Rover BAR's budget for this Cup cycle is $NZ171 million - and frighteningly sophisticated.

The team use machine learning - artificial intelligence - gathered from 350 data points on the boat, to seek out patterns in a bid to make the boats more efficient.

Efficiency is the buzz word, the sailing process a symbiotic relationship between human and machine. These new boats feature hollowed-out hulls into which the six crew members drop after every manoeuvre, hidden away from the wind, arms spinning furiously to generate the power needed to activate the control systems.

And the efficiency of those control systems will go a long way to determining the winner of the Cup. The quicker you can store energy, the better.

And the less energy you use up on each manoeuvre, the more manoeuvres you will be able to perform.

Whereas, in F1, success is reckoned to be 90% down to the car and 10% down to the driver, Ainslie reckons America's Cup sailing, with all the variables of wind, tide, current and so on, is "more like 50-50".

He is hopeful that, with the launch of Rita, the first 50% of that equation is now in the best shape it can be. A first British win in sport's oldest international sporting trophy would see the America's Cup return to the Solent and do wonders for the sport in the UK.

"You can go back to Ellen MacArthur and Alex Thomson coming agonisingly close in the Vendee Globe recently, and all the Olympic success of the last 10 to 20 years," Ainslie said.

"The America's Cup is the one we have never won. It's a bit of a sore point.

"We want to get the job done and bring the Cup home."