The new era of the America's Cup is now more than simulations and plans, with Team New Zealand's first AC75 vessel launched for the world to see.

The Kiwi defenders set the first of their two full-scale race boats on the water today, bringing to life years of plans, designs and alterations.

The vessel, named Te Aihe, is set to undergo strenuous testing on the Waitemata Harbour in the coming months, as Team New Zealand look to get a handle on sailing the hulking yacht and begin to make refinements for the second race boat.

Team New Zealand christened their new yacht
Team New Zealand christened their new yacht "Te Aihe" in Auckland this morning. Photo / Michael Craig.

"We've been working on the concept of this boat for over two years now, since Bermuda, and on the specific design of this one for well over a year," designer Dan Bernasconi said.

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"It's a big change in pace for the campaign as well. We haven't been sailing for the last two years. The last time we actually had a boat in the water was that last race in Bermuda. Today it's clicking into gear; we're getting into the sailing programme but still working hard on design because we've got another boat coming pretty soon after this one."

Team New Zealand are the first of the five syndicates entered in the 2021 regatta to launch their first full-scale model, with INEOS Team UK, Luna Rossa and American Magic all expected to follow suit in the coming weeks, while Stars and Stripes Team USA – a late entry – still had work to do to reach that point.

Team New Zealand christened their new yacht
Team New Zealand christened their new yacht "Te Aihe" in Auckland this morning. Photo / Michael Craig.

While a number of the other teams have been working on scaled-down models of the AC75 design, Team New Zealand have worked exclusively with simulations.

The coming months could be among the most important in Team New Zealand's campaign, as the team work to resolve any issues as they prepare their second vessel all while preparing themselves to compete in the first America's Cup World Series event in Sardinia next April.

Team New Zealand sailor Glenn Ashby said the team had lessons that needed to be validated on board the full-sized both in the next couple of months.

"A lot of decisions are loom with foils and design criteria down the track for what we need for our future boats, so we really need to get out on the water as soon as we can and start ticking those boxes off.

Team New Zealand christened their new yacht
Team New Zealand christened their new yacht "Te Aihe" in Auckland this morning. Photo / Michael Craig.

"Time is ticking. That's one thing you'll wish you had more of down the track is time, and the time is now to get out there and validate the lessons we've learned in doors; we need to get out there and make sure that those are reality – not just virtual reality."

Team New Zealand chief executive Grant Dalton said it had been "a little bit emotionally stressful" morning watching the boat launch.

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"This is a special morning for us, it's been a long time coming," Dalton said.

"All going well, it always depends on weather and wind forecast, but it's going to do 50 knots, as our simulations project. That will make the harbour go very small very quickly."