Team New Zealand have officially unveiled the sleek new 50-ft race boat they hope will propel them to reclaim the America's Cup in Bermuda this year.
The team's new America's Cup Class (ACC) wingsailed catamaran has been spotted out on the water in Auckland this week as skipper Glenn Ashby and crew wasted little time in getting their training under way.
It meant Emirates Team New Zealand's planned big reveal of their surprise innovation was spoiled by eagle-eyed observers on the water. But the unconventional "pedalstal" grinding positions, where the crew push pedals rather than turn handles, remained the key talking point at today's official launch.
"Over the last 48 hours there's been a lot of focus on the cycling, which is cool. Hopefully it's sort of got the opposition evaluating their decisions. One of us is right, not necessarily us. But really [the cycling] is part of a much bigger picture," said Team NZ chief executive Grant Dalton.
"The boats in San Francisco look like they are absolutely from the dark ages. The range of boats that are going in the water now from both the challengers and the defender are the most technologically advanced boats that have ever been launched.
"We've had to learn a whole bunch of new skills, and we're developing along the way. I think one of the keys to this campaign will be that we don't stop developing. It won't be won by one thing."
In the presence of the team, their families, sponsors and official suppliers, the boat was christened at the Beaumont Street base by Tina Symmans - one of the team's directors on the board. The ceremony also featured a blessing by Ngati Whatua.
"This is a day our opposition tried to stop happening - still tries to stop happening," said Dalton.
"The campaign always just gets real when you launch the actual boat that you hope will be the one to win the America's Cup back for New Zealand. It's when things get exciting, and despite the long hard hours everyone has been putting in there is definitely an added edge to the team now this is in the water."
The cycle grinding system was the most evident new development on the catamaran, which is 15m long and has a 25m wing, but Team NZ design co-ordinator Dan Bernasconi said it is not the most significant innovation on the boat. The real innovation lies in the sophisticated hydraulic systems that control the flight of the boat.
"When we sat down to think about the overall design of this boat three years ago the benefits of cycling opposed to regular grinding were obvious, but certainly not without issues and difficulty with functionality, and this is what we have been working incredibly hard on overcoming for the past three years," said Bernasconi.
"Winning the next America's Cup is all about maintaining a stable flight on the entire race course and that's the reason why this boat contains some of the most innovative and powerful technology ever used in this competition in its systems, electronics, hydraulics and foil designs."
The rule for the America's Cup Class required certain elements of the boats to be one-design, including the hulls, beams, central pod and wing shape. That meant the design effort was focused on the control systems and daggerboards, where the Protocol allows more flexibility.
Even though the ACC catamarans are 20-feet shorter and have a smaller wing than the AC72s sailed in the 2013 America's Cup in San Francisco, they are expected to be around 20 per cent faster around the race track.
"The fact we are the first team to go sailing on the race boat, considering how late we were compared to the other teams is an unbelievable testament to the drive, focus and determination this very special team has collectively," said shore team manager Sean Regan.
"There is a true belief that this team can take on the five other Goliath's and win this thing."
The emphasis of the campaign now moves from inside the confines of the boat shed to the open water of the Hauraki Gulf, led by Ashby.
"It's been a challenge to get to this point, and the first sailing has been a very special moment for the entire team," said Ashby.
"The next few months of sailing and development with our race boat will be some of the most important in this America's Cup. We'll do a month of intensive testing here in Auckland then we will suspend the test programme and move to Bermuda where we will resume our training until racing starts, on [May 27]."
"In the 30-year history of Emirates Team New Zealand it has always been at the forefront of international sailing. From its beginning with Plastic Fantastic in 1987 to the introduction of foils in San Francisco the team has always reshaped the America's Cup and the boat we are christening today is introducing revolutionary concepts once again." concluded Grant Dalton.
The AC Class catamaran in numbers:
2332-2432kg in weight
60m of optical fibres
15m hull length
25m height of wing above water
46+ knots top speed
6 crew members
87.5kg average crew weight
35th America's Cup schedule*
Louis Vuitton qualifiers: May 27-June 4
Round robin match-racing featuring all five challengers and the defender, Oracle Team USA.
Louis Vuitton challenger play-offs: June 5-13
The top four challengers after the qualifiers advance through to the play-offs.
America's Cup match: June 18-28
The winner of the challenger series will take on Oracle in the Cup match. The first team to seven points takes out the Cup.
*Dates in NZT