Dean Barker on the helm Team New Zealand sailing the AC45 - 5 February 2011
Team New Zealand, who have not publicly announced their entry for the 34th America's Cup, were the first team outside Oracle Racing to sail the prototype AC45.
With skipper Dean Barker on the tiller the AC45 indulged in some spectacular hull flying, on the Hauraki Gulf, in conditions that were judged to be too light for sailing in the Sail Auckland Regatta. In these conditions the AC45 looked reasonably powered up and was sailing at around 10knots.
These were conditions that in 2000 and 2003 would have seen racing postponed for abandoned in the America's Cups and Louis Vuitton Cups that were sailed in the Hauraki Gulf. It was heartening to see the AC45 running hot in these light conditions, and obviously racing would have been very possible.
To date Team New Zealand have not announced that they have made an entry into the 34th America's Cup, and there are two unannounced teams in the seven entries, which is expected to soon grow to eight.
Notices published on the America's Cup website under the name of the Regatta Director state that only teams which are Competitors in the 34th America's Cup will be allocated use of the AC45 ahead of taking delivery of their own AC45's - of which an initial batch of boats will be built. Whether Team New Zealand are a bona fide America's Cup entry, or whether Regatta Director Iain Murray was just being nice to them, remains to be seen.
The team are also entered in this year's Extreme 40 circuit, could they have been out getting some pre-season practice in the slightly longer AC45?
Team New Zealand/New Zealand Challenge is the world's most successful professional sailing team having competed in every Louis Vuitton Cup Final or America's Cup Match since 1987 (except for the 33rd America's Cup). They have twice won the America's Cup and the Audi MedCup (TP52's), and are partners in the Camper entry in the 2011/12 Volvo Ocean race.
The prototype AC45 will be officially handed over to America's Cup Race Management next week, who will allocate practice time to the Challengers.