A cutting-edge foiling catamaran will again provide a spectacle off Northland's coastline as some of the world's best sailors test and train themselves on the new flying machine.
The new F50 catamaran was delivered to the Northland base this week and is expected to be on the water for testing and training ahead of the second season of racing in the SailGP series next year.
Six F50 catamarans were raced in the successful inaugural season this year and organisers will test the event's seventh boat in Whangārei Harbour between now and the end of January, using Northport in Marsden Point as the operational base.
Whangārei Harbour and Bream Bay will offer ring-side seats for those wanting to view the new boat in action, as a team of approximately 30 staff and athletes settle in Northland until January 17.
"We are delighted to facilitate the role Northland is now playing in this new event in the global competitive sailing calendar," Northport CEO Jon Moore said.
"While this is very different to our core business and isn't a commercial endeavour, we hope to ultimately help drive economic growth. Many of the services Core Builders Composites needs are sourced locally, and we wouldn't be surprised to see other specialist firms servicing the international competitive sailing industry establish a presence here too."
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The record-breaking boats are designed, developed and built at Core Builders Composites in Warkworth, New Zealand.
The seventh F50 has been in production since March and will take flight on Bream Bay this week.
The catamaran will be sailed ultimately by a new national team set to join the league in 2020, to be announced at a later date.
The new crew will join the six existing SailGP teams – Australia, China, France, Great Britain, Japan and the United States – as the global championship travels to iconic venues around the world in its first season.
Between the manufacturing operation in Warkworth and the testing and training conducted in Marsden Point, Northland has become the central technical and development hub for the production and delivery of the F50 – the most technically advanced racing catamaran in the world.
The boats are designed and built by highly skilled marine professionals from across the region with the help of local firms, including MS Engineering, Pure Design and Doyle Sails.
The latest F50s will be launched and retrieved by Northport's 100-ton mobile harbour crane, at a purpose-built pontoon and mooring area.
"Northland offers easy access to a highly skilled and specailised marine services sector, which allow us to efficiently trial and test our boats' systems and technology," Brad Marsh, SailGP tech team manager, said.
"The location, facilities and environment have proven ideal for our purposes, and we're delighted to be back."
The F50 is a one-design class, meaning that all boats are exactly the same, but innovations are constantly being applied to the fleet to ensure the catamarans are at the cutting edge of technology and speed.
A revolutionary new modular wingsail will also undergo testing on the seventh boat, in preparation for being fitted to the entire SailGP fleet before the 2020 San Francisco SailGP.
A first-of-its-kind system, the wing comprises of sections that can be assembled in varying lengths – initially from 18 to 24m with the future ability to go to 29m – to enable the F50s to compete in a never-before-seen range of weather conditions.
Vital weight savings have been achieved with the all-new wing, with a more advanced structure and the removal of rigging and cables inside the hollow structure, adding additional performance gains in light winds.
Earlier this year, SailGP debuted with events in Sydney, San Francisco, New York, Cowes (England) and Marseille (France).
The season culminated with a final 10-minute match race featuring the year's top two teams – Australia and Japan. Tom Slingsby's Australia SailGP Team was crowned the Season 1 champion, winning the largest monetary prize in the sport – US$1 million.
Season two will again start in Australia, as the championship descends on Sydney Harbour on February 28 and 29.
* Teams from Australia, China, France, Great Britain, Japan, USA and this year New Zealand
* Bream Bay training waters for the elite sailors from December 19 to January 20
* F50 catamarans being built in Warkworth by Core Builders Composites
*A revolutionary new modular wingsail will also undergo testing