Subtle but significant - that's the whisper about Team New Zealand's design gains on its second America's Cup catamaran, which will be launched in Auckland tomorrow.
Having been the only team among the four involved in the America's Cup to complete their 30 days of trialling their first boat, TNZ have quickly focused on improvements on the second generation 72-footer which will contest the Louis Vuitton Cup in San Francisco in July and, hopefully, the America's Cup against holders Oracle in September.
Construction began just five days after the first boat hit the water and tweaks have been accommodated as constant data has been fed into the designers off the original boat.
Feedback from skipper Dean Barker and his crew, which includes TNZ boss Grant Dalton in his role as a grinder, has been crucial.
There have been developments in the foils and the giant wingsail along with subtle changes to the shape of the hulls. The operational side of the onboard gear has also been tweaked for ease of usage.
Increasing speed is the obvious target but reliability is seen as a key ingredient to the second cat, given that it will be in full racing mode where breakages will be hugely costly in the quickfire nature of the contest generated by these high-speed craft.
TNZ came through the first testing programme unscathed despite pushing the original cat to extremes in some high-wind days out on the Waitemata Harbour. Now they want absolute confidence in their machinery for the real thing.
Barker described launching a new boat just four months out from racing as "brutal", saying they couldn't afford problems in engineering, manufacture or build.
The pressure would now go on his crew to avoid catastrophes as they prepare to get the new cat on the water this week to start 45 days of sailing allowed under Cup rules between February 1 and May 1.
Meanwhile, Oracle are ready to relaunch their original AC72 this week following an extensive rebuild after it was all but destroyed in a training capsize in San Francisco in October.
Oracle's New Zealand boss Russell Coutts is in a bolshie mood as the big black cat gets set to hit the water again.
"I'm much more comfortable now than I was immediately after we broke the boat and broke the wing," Coutts said.
"We've responded well. We now have the first boat back and in better condition, I believe, than it was [when we capsized]. We made some adjustments to it.
"In responding [to the capsize] we looked at other areas of our programme and were able to accelerate boat two without compromising the design program. Normally if you shorten the construction programme you give yourself less time to make key design decisions yet were able to do it in such a way as to not compromise the design.
"I'm optimistic. I wouldn't trade positions with any of the other teams at this point."
- Sunday Star Times
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