With the relief of surviving the first day at sea behind them, Emirates Team New Zealand feel confident they can swiftly harness the power of their new rocketship.
Tactician Ray Davies admitted a feeling of relief ran through the team yesterday when the 22m catamaran, NZL2, finally went flying, 10 days after its launch. But the second wave of emotion was that handling this new breed of America's Cup monster may not be as terrifying as it looks.
Waiting for light airs for its maiden sail, the world's first AC72 performed to the team's expectations, flying between Takapuna Beach and Tititiri Matangi twice during the four-hour trial.
"We got her up on one hull, whizzing around at 20 knots in 10 knots of breeze. She's going to be pretty impressive in a serious breeze... and a bloody handful too," Davies says.
"The multihulls in the last America's Cup had powered winches. With manual grinding on these boats, we're going to have a pretty exhausted crew by the end of the day."
There were no real surprises in the boat's performance on day one of the 30 days allowed between now and February 1 next year, Davies says. "We saw the formulas we were expecting." And there was not a lot of apprehension either, despite the untried power of the 40m wingsail.
"In these bigger boats, you get a numbing effect of the breeze on the boat. The smaller boats - the AC45s and SL33 catamarans - are like dinghies, more lively," says Davies, an integral part of the Team NZ crew sailing AC45s in the America's Cup World Series.
"Although this boat is big, we should start feeling that it's manageable pretty quick."
While the 5-11 knots of breeze on the first sailing day was ideal as the sailing crew, engineers and designers on board gradually increased the loads, Team NZ will be looking for more breeze for their next day out on the first of their two AC72s.
"Hopefully this weekend we'll go out in more than 15 knots. We'll sail in those conditions for a couple of days, then it will be a natural progression to 20 knots and then 25," says Davies.
"At the end of the day, we're going to be racing in plus 18 knots in San Francisco, so we have to disregard light air sailing. Our focus will be on 12 knots and above, and this boat should sail really nicely in 15 knots."
Team New Zealand's long-time meteorologist, Australian Roger "Clouds" Badham, is living fulltime in Auckland during the sailing period, forecasting up to a week ahead to predict the perfect weather windows.
Team NZ will sail through weekends if it means leaping on to the best conditions. "We're Monday to Monday now, 6am to 9pm. We've got to be efficient with the limited number of days we're allowed to go sailing," Davies says.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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