Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton isn't biting on suggestions by his rival Sir Russell Coutts that the Kiwis won't make the America's Cup final.
TNZ launched their second catamaran in Auckland yesterday with the new generation AC72 carrying the hopes of the nation as they try to wrestle back sport's oldest trophy from Coutts' Oracle outfit.
But first TNZ must get past Italy's Luna Rossa and Swedish syndicate Artemis Racing to win the Louis Vuitton Cup, starting in July, and earn the right to challenge for the America's Cup in September.
Coutts clearly can't see that happening, saying he doesn't expect to be confronting the Kiwis for yachting's biggest piece of silverware.
"We haven't yet seen the second boat of Artemis and I wouldn't write Artemis off right now. It looks to me they will come out strong with the changes they recently made in their organisation. I, certainly, am not thinking we will be facing Team New Zealand," Coutts told a Spanish sailing website.
That was water off the bow to Dalton who suggested there were so many uncertainties over the radical new catamarans that it remained wide open.
He likes where his team is sitting, saying they had made "subtle but dramatic" changes to their new design off the original AC72.
"But we remain incredibly nervous ... no one knows," Dalton said, saying so much would come down to a battle of the designers.
"It's a matter of whose back room guys have understood it and mastered the numbers best."
While TNZ and Prada have similar cats - Prada has an identical first generation TNZ boat under their sharing agreement - Oracle and Artemis have gone on different tacks.
Dalton said it would be interesting to see whether the changes in the looming second boats from Artermis and Oracle would "come close to us or move further away".
He said what they had learned of Artemis' new wingsail suggested they were moving more towards New Zealand in that key area while sightings of Oracle's new hulls pointed to the Americans shifting further away with their latest design.
TNZ have tweaked the shape of their bows, the wingsail and the foils. A lot of work has gone into aerodynamics.
While the advantages of high-speed foiling on such a tight course remains contentious, Dalton believes they had made gains in their latest foil designs to enhance their gybing abilities.
More than 60,000 hours had gone into the design of the latest boat along with 50,000 hours of design work.
High winds yesterday prevented TNZ getting the cat in the water after a blessing by the Ngati Whatua tribe and the champagne launch by Mandy Barker, wife of skipper Dean Barker, who christened the boat New Zealand Aotearoa.
As the massive cat sat in her cradles, Dalton promised that the development wouldn't stop. They would continue to advance the boat because that was what the circumstances demanded of this venture into the unknown.
TNZ now have 45 days of sailing allowed before May 1 under Cup rules.
But the reality is their time is far shorter than that.
They will sail in Auckland till around the second week of April before their entire base is packed up and shipped to San Francisco on April 28.
Dalton said their computer numbers pointed to gains with the second boat and now it was a matter of finding that out on the water.
They hoped to have their first day on the Waitemata Harbour on Thursday.
Having successfully got through their 30 days of trials on their original boat and now launched their second design, TNZ look well-placed. But Dalton scoffed at suggestions they were out in front.
"We're not way ahead. We're going to lose five weeks with shipping everything to San Francisco," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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