6 Sep 2019

Te Aihe 'important step' for Team NZ

4:22 pm on 6 September 2019

A traditional christening, for a boat that is anything but.

Welcome rain fell as the champagne was cracked on Team New Zealand's new boat outside their base on Auckland's Viaduct Harbour on Friday morning.

Grant Dalton at the launch of Team New Zealand's AC 75 on 6 September.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The launch of the boat which reclaimed the America's Cup in 2017 was held in the same conditions.

For chief executive Grant Dalton, this launch - attended by around 500 people - was the product of two years work by more than 100 people.

"We've been living it from six different ideas, literally on an A4 piece of paper sketched up by the guys to this point where we came down to one concept, developed that and into today.

"To me it's a step, an important step for sure."

Named Te Aihe, the Maori word for Dolphin, the boat is a 75 foot long monohull designed to foil above the water.

It's the first of it's kind to be revealed.

As the four challenging teams get set to launch their first AC 75s, Dalton knew all of them were watching very closely from near and far.

"We don't have a mortgage on all the good ideas. Nor do they.

"I think teams over years recent years have realised that just because they didn't think about it, it's not necessarily wrong.

"When they start launching will be monitoring them, just as they're doing with us."

Team New Zealand's A-C 75, a full-size 75-foot foiling monohull, revealed on 6 September.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The launch, which included an impromptu speech from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, revealed more than a year's worth of intensive design and build work.

Head of the Kiwi syndicate's design team, Dan Bernasconi said Te Aihe was a state-of-the-art vessel, but not for long.

"This is definitely version one.

"There'll be a lot of things that we'll be trying to improve, as well everyone else.

"In 18 months time, these boats are going to look pretty dated. But right now, this is the cutting edge."

Bernasconi said they're hoping to be out on the Waitemata Harbour by early next week, with the first few steps likely to be tentative in such a high-tech machine.

"Accelerating from zero to 15 knots, until we get foiling, is probably almost the hardest thing in this boat.

"We'll be waiting for a weather window. If we can get out with very little breeze at all, almost no breeze, we'd be happy just to go and go through the motions of getting the sails up, checking the systems and that everything works."

The man charged with getting behind the wheel, Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling couldn't wait to find out what the new boat is capable of.

"It's going to be an amazing thing to get out there and put it through its paces. It will definitely be a little step up on speed than the last ones. Especially when you put it around a course.

"It will be pretty incredible seeing it flying for the first time and also seeing them racing for the first time."

Peter Burling waves to the crowd at the America's Cup parade in central Auckland.

Peter Burling waves to the crowd at the America's Cup parade in central Auckland. Photo: Photo / PhotoSport / William Booth

While also excited, team boss Dalton admitted those first few test runs will also cause a few nerves.

He's optimistic they are ready.

But having been the only team to not build a small scale test boat, relying only on a highly advanced simulator till now - Dalton knew there were also still plenty of unknowns.

"They're decisions we made, I don't know whether I'm confident about them.

"There's so many things that are happening now that you won't know the answer of until March 2021 when we race in the America's Cup.

"That's the game. You make decisions, you back 'em and then you work like hell to try and make those decisions right, even if you think they might be wrong."

More of those decisions were imminent, with just a few months before Team New Zealand needed to begin building their second boat to be used in the Cup regatta.

This first real action for this first version will come at World Series regattas in Europe and the US next year.