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Making Waves

After 21 days of sailing in the Hauraki Gulf, Emirates Team New Zealand has lowered its bold, red wing sail in New Zealand for the final time, with the focus immediately on shifting to begin disassembling their race boat and get it ready to be packaged up for its Emirates flight to Bermuda.

New Zealand, Aotearoa – the team race boat – was christened in mid-February, and since then Emirates Team New Zealand has been feverishly training on the water to improve the crew work and the boat speed.

A fast boat requires close collaboration between the sailors, designers and shore team, as each modification is the result of tests on the water, simulations and constant research of performing solutions. In the past month and a half the team has worked tirelessly both on the water and in the shed to fine-tune the control systems that will be the key variable in the next America’s Cup.

The sailing conditions in Auckland have been ideal for testing and putting the race boat throughout the range of conditions in which it will race once in Bermuda.

“The conditions have almost been more ‘Bermuda-like’ than in Bermuda,” says skipper Glenn Ashby.

“We have probably had the chance to sail more days with our America’s Cup Class catamaran than anyone to date, as the weather at this time of year in Auckland is perfect for sailing.

“But we have needed every moment we could manage out there, because while we are in transit the other teams will be making some big gains.”

From helmsman Peter Burling’s perspective: “Every day we have learnt new things, and the more the time has gone by the more we have realised how many opportunities we still have for improvement, exploring and testing. “The feedback that the sailors give during a training session regarding their feelings on board is crucial. If this is true for all boats, it is even more important in full-foiling catamarans where each parameter is taken to the extreme. We are very satisfied with the job we’ve done so far, but the time has come to put a line in the sand in New Zealand, so now the final lap begins!”

The conclusion of the testing period is yet another major milestone for the team, who have become used to constant pressure to catch up with the other, more resourced teams that have been actively testing and developing for far longer.

“This was a late campaign for Emirates Team New Zealand, and if we look back at one year ago I still find it hard to believe how far we have come,” adds CEO Grant Dalton. “We have been watched very closely by the Oracle Soft Bank spies every minute we have been on the water, and their vigilance makes me think we have built a very good racing machine. We could keep improving and developing the boat indefinitely, but we have got to go racing at some stage, and now is that time. “It is hard to express the huge effort that everyone on the team has put in to the endless quest for speed and performance gains,” concludes Grant.

Although it seems a good time for a short break, the reality is that there will be no slowing down until the last race of the campaign. At the time of writing this article, the team was already pulling the boat apart and packing the remainder of the required spares, equipment and infrastructure to load on to the Emirates cargo plane which was due to leave in just over one week.

The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers begin on 27 May at 8am New Zealand time, and Emirates Team New Zealand’s first race will be against Groupama Team France.