Grant Dalton declared his Team New Zealand syndicate "in pretty good shape" as they completed their 30th and final day of testing in their America's Cup catamaran yesterday.
Given the hi-tech dynamics of the 72-foot cat, no one knew what to expect from the extraordinary craft and the Kiwis certainly seem to be ahead of the small pack trying to win sport's oldest trophy in San Francisco next year.
Team New Zealand wound up the use of their first boat with comfortable wins in two training races with Prada on Auckland's Waitemata Harbour.
That could be attributed to the ongoing development on the New Zealand boat and having had 18 more days on the water than the Italians.
Team New Zealand's boat will now be cannibalised for parts for their second boat which is currently being built and is due to be launched in early February.
There are no restraints on sailing that boat and it will see plenty of action before being shipped to California in April with the Louis Vuitton challengers series set to start on July 4. Emirates New Zealand will face Prada and Swedish syndicate Artemis Racing for the right to battle Oracle for the America's Cup in September.
Dalton admitted it had been a step learning curve
"Boat-wise, we didn't know what to expect. I think when you compare it to the other teams, it has exceeded expectations," Dalton said of his giant red rocket which has survived relatively damage-free compared to the struggles of cup holders Oracle and Artemis.
"Structurally it has been really good. We have sailed it in some really hard conditions ... conditions that the older boats would have struggled in.
"Now as we come into summer with the new boat, all those learnings go into that. We're in pretty good shape."
Dalton said he had earmarked tomorrow as the day to have their 30 days of sailing completed so it was pleasing to be just ahead of plans.
But, ever the perfectionist, he is challenging his crew and team to squeeze more out of the next boat.
"We didn't know where we'd be in all honesty," he said of reaching this crucial juncture.
"We'd like to be a lot further ahead than we are ... you always would. We're not perfect with our sailing of the boat yet, there's such a lot to learn. As elite sportsmen you strive to get better and better, you want to be further up the arc."
The sailing team will break from December 23 till January 7 though the build of the next boat will continue through the holiday period.
- © Fairfax NZ News