Team NZ catch big-cat fever as need to trial AC72 becomes much more urgent.
Just hours after wrapping up their World Series regatta in San Francisco, Team New Zealand were on a plane home last night hoping to be back out on the water in their AC72 tomorrow.
The San Francisco regatta was the last stop on the America's Cup World Series for the year and Dean Barker's crew did not want to waste any time in getting their testing programme in the big cat back under way.
The World Series - which is raced in standard platform AC45s - will reconvene in April next year with two regattas in Italy. Negotiations are rumoured to be taking place for a third regatta in New York in June, before the teams make the step up to the AC72s for the big show, beginning with the Louis Vuitton challenger series in July.
Team New Zealand are the most advanced with their AC72 programme, with nine sail days under their belts, but there is an urgency in the team now Cup defenders Oracle have their boat up and running.
Under the protocol that governs next year's America's Cup contest, teams are permitted only a maximum of 30 sail days to test their first boats, between their launch date and January 31 next year.
Teams can launch their second boat any time after February 1.
Putting aside the eye-watering amount of money spent on these yachts for just 30 sail days, it initially appeared the allowable testing days would be used up pretty quickly.
But Team New Zealand strategist Adam Beashel said they would be pushing it to reach the maximum days before the January deadline.
"We're shooting for two days a week from now on, weather dependent," he said. "It's just invaluable each day you get out in the 72 and learn more about it and get more comfortable with the boat: how to manoeuvre it, what it can do, what it can't do."
Team New Zealand will soon have company in Auckland, with Italian team Luna Rossa planning to spend the summer training with the Kiwi team.
"It'll be fantastic to have [Luna Rossa] there, and it's just a quiet reminder that it's all happening.
"When you're on you're own out there sometimes you lose track of what's going on, but when you've got another team pushing along right next to you, it's certainly going to lift the game," said Beashel.
And Team New Zealand will certainly be aware of the need to lift their game after Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill yesterday gave them a reminder of what they will be up against if they make it through to the America's Cup final next September.
Spithill completed a clean sweep of the America's Cup World Series regatta in San Francisco, adding the fleet racing championship to the match racing title he won on Sunday.
As he took the stage to claim his prize, the Australian skipper proclaimed: "This is our Bay, this is our race course."
The message was intended to fire up the locals to come out and support Oracle in next year's event, but it also threw down the gauntlet to his rivals.
Fourth at the start of the day, the hometown team were impressive in yesterday's final race, overcoming a dreadful start, in which they were last off the line, to mow down the fleet.
Ben Ainslie, who had a handy lead heading into the final day, could only manage a fourth yesterday, putting him on equal points with Oracle. But with the final fleet race carrying more weighting, the win was handed to Spithill.
Team NZ finished fourth overall in the fleet race championship, after a disappointing seventh in the final race.
America's Cup World Series
Final standings, fleet racing championship
Jimmy Spithill 79 points
Ben Ainslie 79
White Terry Hutchinson 72
Team New Zealand
Dean Barker 57
Russell Coutts 56
Nathan Outteridge 52
Energy Team France
Loick Peyron 47
Peter Burling 40
Luna Rossa Piranha
Chris Draper 36
Phil Robertson 28
Luna Rossa Swordfish
Iker Martinez 20.