WELLINGTON (Reuters) - America’s Cup holders Team New Zealand finally began proper trials of their new class of foiling monohull on Wednesday after rough weather in Auckland scuppered any real chance of testing the 75-foot yacht when it was launched last week.
TNZ are the first syndicate to officially launch an early version of the AC75-class yacht, though challengers from Britain and the United States have been trialing smaller prototypes.
The next America’s Cup will be held in Auckland in early 2021.
TNZ and the four challenging syndicates from Italy, Britain and two from the United States are allowed to build two boats each for the America’s Cup, with the ‘second generation’ of yachts expected to be used in the actual regatta.
TNZ named their yacht “Te Aihe”, the Maori word for dolphin, last Friday at a launch ceremony attended by sponsors, team members and their families, and politicians including New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Advance teams from the other syndicates were also reported to be in the crowd at Auckland’s Viaduct, with a sailor from the Italian syndicate seen taking photographs of the yacht as it was lowered into the water.
TNZ, who took the yacht out under tow on Tuesday where it was seen up on its foils but did not appear to test any other equipment, raised the main soft wingsail on Wednesday with one crew member hoisted to the top of the 26.5-metre tall mast.
The yacht had taken 10 months to build and TNZ boss Grant Dalton said last week he was looking forward to putting the boat in the water and beginning testing.
“I have no idea how right or wrong we are, nobody does,” he told Stuff Media at a pre-launch media conference.
“I think the teams, after they see each other’s boats, will come together a bit (with their second generation boats).
“But there’s not a lot of time now. People have got to start designing their second boats and it would be quite a big thing now to change direction.
“There has been two years of research gone on already. There’s a pattern established now ... there’s a set of railway tracks that would be pretty hard to get off now.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford