"Halsey Street: we have contact".
The pieces of Emirates Team New Zealand's giant catamaran have finally locked together, with the 12-storey tall wingsail slotting into the boat's platform at the team's Auckland base this morning.
The 40m high, fire engine-red wing has been assembled in a huge tent over the last three months, while the 22m long, 14m wide hull platform of the AC72 - the new generation of America's Cup yachts - was finished off in a tent next door.
A mobile crane was used to carefully lift the wing onto the platform of the first of two catamarans Team NZ will build for the 2013 America's Cup. The Kiwi boat will be the first AC72 to ever hit the water.
The wing would undergo four hours of load testing this morning before being removed from the multihull and safely stored away before Saturday's official launch.
Team NZ skipper Dean Barker and his sailing crew have been helping the shore team to put the final touches on the cat, and Barker is still overawed by the beast they have created.
"The boat is going to be a monster. The sheer size of the wing is mindblowing," he said.
"It will be nice to get the thing on the water and put it through its paces, but at the same time we're certainly very nervous about how it's going to perform."
Although the boat will be christened at a public ceremony in the Viaduct Harbour on Saturday evening, it is likely to be lowered into the water in the next two days.
Then the tight testing schedule begins. Under new cost-containment rules, the first AC72 can only be sailed 30 days between launch and January 31.
That means Team NZ will be out on the water from dawn till dusk on training days: under the rule, a day starts once the tow line is attached to the boat, so it could be five minutes of sailing or 12 hours.
The cat will stretch its sealegs on the Hauraki Gulf. Needing little wind or water to sail effectively, it's likely to sail closer to land than the old generation of America's Cup monohulls.
Engineers and designers will be on board the boat for its debut sail, before serious training of the crew begins. Team NZ has a crew of 12 sailors for the cat, including the team's managing director Grant Dalton.
Cup defenders Oracle are expected to launch their first boat in the next few weeks, but have scuppered plans to sail it in New Zealand this summer.
Oracle had originally planned to train out of Mardsen Point in Northland, but have said their emphasis in their "boat testing and development cycle" has changed.
"Extending our summer and fall training session in San Francisco effectively closed the New Zealand window," says team general manager Grant Simmer. "The merits of Marsden Point as a sailing venue have not changed; it is only our priorities that have changed."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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