In full flight, Team New Zealand's radical America's Cup race boat is, paradoxically, majestic and terrifying all at once.

As the team approaches each manoeuvre, which involves a sharp change of direction at high speed, there's a point when you just hold your breath. It's an involuntary reaction to seeing the 50ft catamaran seemingly turn on a dime, with nothing more than two oversized hockey sticks controlling its flight.

Since launching their race boat six weeks ago, Emirates Team New Zealand have been on the Waitemata Harbour, fine-tuning their systems and crew work in their endless quest for speed and performance gains.

Yesterday was the first opportunity media had to see the piece of machinery up close the team hopes will carry them to victory in the 35th America's Cup. It just might have been Team NZ's final day of training in Auckland.


They were due to begin disassembling the boat tomorrow and get it ready to be packaged up for its flight to Bermuda next month. But with light winds forecast for the next two days, team boss Grant Dalton says they may get a head start on the packing process today.

The team are quietly confident their boat, christened New Zealand Aotearoa, will be among the best of the teams in Bermuda.

If the name seems unimaginative, perhaps it is because all of the inspiration and enterprise has gone into making this boat go fast.

The big risk the team's designers have taken is in its radical pedal-powered grinding set-up. Six weeks on from the big reveal of the shock innovation, much of the fascination among the assembled media still lies in the pedal-grinding systems.

Team NZ grinder (if that's still an accurate description for the role they do now) Guy Endean, who was on the chase boat for the first part of the team's training yesterday, spent much of the ride answering questions ranging from the technical to the trivial about the cycling set-up.

Do they wear cycling cleats? (Kind of, the sailors wear the same shoes mountain bikers wear, which have smaller clips which lock into the pedals.) Has he ever had a mishap throwing himself on to the bike seat at speed? (No, thankfully.) Does he feel like a bit of dick sitting on boat hunched over bike? (He has become used to it.)

The biggest question remains over the speed of transition across the boat during manoeuvres - one of the big trade-offs Team NZ have made in going down the bike power path.

Endean says there were a few times early on when he had problems either disengaging from the pedals or clipping himself back in, but he believes by the time the team hit the startline in Bermuda in May, the motion will have become second nature for them.


It's not just a fraught process for the grinders. The violent g-forces the sailors are exposed to during the manoeuvres means man-overboard scenarios are becoming more common.

Helmsman Peter Burling came a cropper just the other day, becoming the third member of the crew to face the indignity of being scooped out of the water by the chase boat.

"He just took a step at the wrong time and next thing he was gone over the back," says grinder Joe Sullivan, who takes a breather on the chase boat after the wind drops out.

Ashby reckons it is probably a good thing his team have had to deal with a few mishaps and "hairy moments" in their training runs. The nature of sailing the high-powered racing machines on the edge is that one small mis-step and things can go awry. But that is a challenge that excites rather than scares him.

"We're just looking forward to getting over there. It has been great here, but there comes a point where you have to draw a line in the sand. We could stay here training for another couple of years and keep on developing, but you've got to go racing at some stage, and now's that time."