Team NZ cat on a leash in maiden sail
Team New Zealand kept their shiny, new America's Cup catamaran on a predictably tight leash during the AC72s historic maiden sail on a gloomy Hauraki Gulf this afternoon.
After craning the big cat's 40m wingsail into place around 8am, Emirates Team NZ waited until 1pm before slipping out into the Gulf with more than a dozen structural engineers, system engineers and sailors on board.
The 22m long multihull was nursed gingerly up Auckland's East Coast Bays to an area off Tiritiri Martangi Island where she was then tested under inceasing loads in between rain squalls in what skipper Dean Barker described as the moment when "science meets real life".
Not surprisingly, the first of the new version America's Cup cats to sail was kept in check as she glided back and forward toward Rakino Island in a nor-easterly hovering around 10-12 knots, with Team NZ giving little away to rival syndicates Luna Rossa and Oracle who trailed behind in tenders.
During the two hours Boating New Zealand watched from a safe distance, NZL2 wasn't allowed to fly a hull despite her blood red, 12-storey wingsail offering ample power to achieve this, even in the light conditions. The time for pushing New Zealand, as the catamaran was christened at a public ceremony in Auckland's Viaduct Harbour last Saturday, will come soon enough now she has undergone her initial load and system tests.
Under new cost-cutting rules, today's short sail counts as the first of just 30 days Team NZ are able to sail the first of their two AC72s between July 1, 2012 and January 31, 2013.
Data from on-board sensors was today closely monitored from Team New Zealand's new 1200hp chase boat as loadings were slowly increased.
Barker expects the first few days on the water to be somewhat tentative before NZL2 is unleashed to a level where the crew are confident to sail the cat in most conditions, up to breeze in the mid to high 20s.
"But first we need to understand loads in light to medium conditions.... as the breeze increases, so do adrenalin levels."
Syndicates cannot launch their second AC72 until February 1 and are then restricted to 45 sailing days between that date and May 1, 2013. After that, the gloves are off until Team New Zealand lines up against Luna Rossa (Italy), Artemis Racing (Sweden) and Team Korea in the Louis Vuitton Challenger Series scheduled for San Francisco between July 4-September 1 next year. The LV Cup winner will then challenge holder Oracle Racing for the Auld Mug in the 34th America's Cup Match from September 7-22, 2013.
Barker and co will continue their crash course in catamaran sailing when the first of four 2012-13 America's Cup World Series (ACWS) season regatta's is sailed on San Francisco Bay from August 21-26. The ACWS is sailed is AC45s, scaled down vessions of the AC72.
For more on Team NZ's new AC72, read Boating's seven-page feature The Contender in the August issue on sale Thursday.