On a grey and blustery day, the newly established Australian challenge for the 34th America’s Cup put the AC45 catamaran through its paces on Auckland’s Waitemata Harbor.
Sporting team uniforms with the slogan ‘AUS AC 34’, the group of nine sailors rotated in various sessions on board – and their verdict afterwards was universally positive.
TEAM Australia has a strong emphasis on youth sailors coming out of multihull, skiff and moth sailing circles. Extreme sailing is in their blood and they took to the hardwing catamaran with enthusiasm.
Josh Mcknight was bullish about the team’s chances. 'There is no reason why we can’t win the America’s Cup,' he declared. 'That is the great thing about the new catamaran. It is all brand new. Everybody starts from scratch, so everybody is in with a chance.'
Youth match racer, Lisa Chamberlin, has very little multihull experience, but described the AC45 as an 'awesome boat.' Match racing in multihulls would definitely be a challenge, she said, but reckoned it was going to be great fun.
Jason Waterhouse, by contrast, has been sailing multihulls since he was four years old and is working towards an Olympic slot in the 2016 games.
'The boat is incredibly efficient,' he said, adding that he thought the Cup would see some exciting new moves introduced to match racing.
Despite some initial scepticism, veteran Australian match racer and Olympic sailor Neville Wittey was looking forward to the prospect of match racing in multihulls. 'I would love to aim one of these things at somebody in real anger. It will be fantastic. This boat will elevate our sport. It is very athletic and exciting.'
Team sailing coach Adam South has a long history of offshore multihull racing and, although he has more grey hairs than most of the team, his enthusiasm was dialed right up the scale. 'A sensational bit of kit,' was how he described the AC45.
He said the make-up of the fledgling team was a mix of young and old.
'The enthusiasm of the young guys will shine through and the wiser heads will keep a cap on that and make sure they don’t do anything too rash,' he said. 'It is going to be an interesting prospect.
'Sailing with the wing will require learning some new techniques, but I was very impressed by how easily and fast the boat transitions through tacks. This is definitely the way the America’s Cup had to go. It is the most magnificent thing that has happened in sailing in 150 years.'