Six supercharged catamarans tested off Northland's coastline are now poised to navigate around iconic Sydney Harbour landmarks in the first round of a new international sailing competition.
Powered by a 24-metre wingsail and flying above the water on hydrofoils at up to 100kmh, six teams from six countries will line up for the first time and race over two days starting on Friday.
The teams from Australia, China, Great Britain, France, Japan and the United States tested the identical 2400kg catamarans in Bream Bay last November and December.
The F50s, built in Warkworth, are the fastest and most technologically advanced class of racing boat in the world, anticipated to reach speeds of up to 100km/h. They have taken more than 135,000 man hours – equal to 67 years – to produce and were transported from Whangārei to Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour in January.
Last week the boats cut a spectacular and colourful picture on Sydney Harbour as they fined tuned their crews and boats.
After Sydney the league heads to San Francisco, New York City, Cowes (UK) and Marseille (France), where the champion will be crowned.
During the trials off Bream Bay, more than 45 people were involved in the daily operation, with bases at Northport and Marsden Maritime Holdings at One Tree Point.
The four-hour daily sailing sessions involved the teams performing a number of manoeuvres to test the boat's structure and equipment, including the light- and heavy-air hydrofoils, control systems, safety equipment, battery and hydraulic pumps.
Those involved in the preparation and sea trials said they had nothing but praise for their Northland base.
SailGP tech team operations manager Brad Marsh said Northland offered easy access to a highly-skilled and specialised marine services sector which allowed the teams to perform the shake-down and validate the yachts' upgraded systems and technology.
When the boats were being made at Warkworth-based company Core Builders Composites managing director Mark Turner, from Kerikeri, said it was an exciting time for the marine industry in Northland. He said the construction of the catamarans demonstrated that high-value manufacturing was happening in the region which was going to be used around the world.
"This wouldn't happen without the relationship with Northport and Marsden Cove and we need that co-operation to be able to do this sailing operation."
As the series develops and the boats were continuously updated it was expected testing would continue in Northland and One Tree Point would remain as the base.
SailGP is the brainchild of American billionaire-businessman Larry Ellison - co-founder, executive chairman, and chief technology officer of Oracle Corporation - and prominent New Zealand yachtsman Sir Russell Coutts, a multiple world champion, Olympic gold medallist and five times America's Cup winner.
Together at Oracle racing Ellison and Coutts masterminded two America's Cup victories - in 2010 in Valencia and 2013 in San Francisco.