Emirates Team New Zealand launched an AC45 catamaran at Auckland's Viaduct harbour this morning, in conjunction with several other AC45's - all are expected to be sailing today.
The AC45 is a 45ft long one design version of the larger AC72 catamaran to be used for the 34th America's Cup in San Francisco in September 2013. Both the AC45 and AC72 carry wingsails of a type similar to USA-17, then BMW Oracle Racing's trimaran which won the 33rd America's Cup against the Swiss Defender, Alinghi in February 2010.
The wingsail developed for the catamarans have proven to be very effective - allowing spectacular hull flying in winds of less than five knots, when racing would not have been conducted in the monohulls used in previous editions of the America's Cup. At the upper end of the wind range the AC45's have been sailing in winds over 35kts without mishap.
Prior to the 34th America's Cup, it is planned to sail a 13 event America's Cup World series at a series of venues to be announced. The AC45's will be used by the eight teams who have entered so far in the early rounds of the ACWS, before switching to the bigger AC72's in 2012.
Ten AC45's, costing approximately NZD1,000,000 each have been commissioned, and these will be launched progressively in Auckland where they will be sailed by the teams until April when a series of trials begins to test race management and media ahead of the ACWS and 34th America's Cups.
Around the 20th May the AC45's will be packed into 40ft containers and shipped to the first ACWS venue.
The teams with AC45's in Auckland are Artemis Racing, Oracle Racing, Emirates Team New Zealand. Oracle Racing are expected to borrow a fourth AC 45 from the Challenger of Record, Mascalzone Latino. Additionally there is a fifth AC45, the prototype yacht which has become a familiar sight on the Waitemata Harbour over the past month.
Emirate Team New Zealand's AC45 was the first to be craned into the Viaduct harbour this morning. She lacks any significant hull signage from sponsors, and is understood to be not fully funded.
She was moved out onto a mooring in the Viaduct harbour while final fit-out was underway. The other AC45s were launched into a single marina that is available and went sailing.
Her wingsail is taken up with a stylised silver fern emblem, and the words 'New Zealand' on its leading edge. When questioned as to whether New Zealand Trade and Industry had provided backing, Sail-World was told that the New Zealand logos and words were all about 'being patriotic'.
The bow of each hull also features a very patriotic New Zealand flag splashed over it.
The statement released by Emirates Team New Zealand this afternoon reads:
Emirates Airline has announced its continued support of Emirates Team New Zealand, as the team took further steps forward towards mounting its challenge for the 34th Americas Cup in San Francisco, with the launch of an AC 45 catamaran.
The launch took place at the teams Viaduct Harbour base at Auckland.
His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive, Emirates Airline & Group, said the airline was continuing its support of Emirates Team New Zealand due to the fact that the yachting team had consistently proven itself both as a top competitor and a brand-builder.
The decision also underlines our commitment to New Zealand at a time when the country is demonstrating its own strengths and resilience in the face of adversity, Sheikh Ahmed said.
Whether it be the Americas Cup, the MedCup or the Louis Vuitton Trophy series, Emirates Team New Zealand has shown the fighting spirit and inspiration for which the country is renowned. We are very pleased to continue our support of Emirates Team New Zealand, continued Sheikh Ahmed.
Emirates Team New Zealand Managing Director Grant Dalton, who has devoted the past six months to securing funding for the challenge, said the response had been encouraging.
We have made considerable progress because the Emirates Team New Zealand brand is an international leader, well recognised in the sport. Emirates Airline has been with the team since 2004 and their decision to stay with us is important. We are fortunate to have such loyal and committed sponsors, said Dalton.
Dalton paid tribute to the many sponsors and suppliers including Emirates, Toyota New Zealand, a sponsor for 20 years, and Omega, a sponsor for 18 years - who have stood by the team in the hard times since the end of the 32nd Americas Cup at Valencia in 2007.
Dalton said the team had paid an initial fee to Americas Cup Race Management to secure access to a supplied one-design AC45. The yacht and wing sail were delivered to the Emirates Team New Zealand base over the past week for assembly by sailing and shore crews.
The one-design AC45 catamaran will be raced in Americas Cup pre-regattas this year and next. They are an interim step until teams have built and are ready to campaign the AC72 catamaran which has been chosen by Americas Cup Race Management to contest the 2013 regatta, said Emirates Team New Zealand chief operations officer Kevin Shoebridge.
Dalton said the team would make a further announcement on its involvement in the 2013 Americas Cup in a couple of months. In the meantime we are developing the sailing team; the design team is working through concepts for the AC72 catamaran and we are continuing meeting with several potential sponsors.
Sheikh Ahmed said: Exposure for Emirates through the team and its global reach has helped put the airline on the map in many parts of the world and with many audiences. We hope there is now the chance of building further on this excellent foundation,
The features we saw in the team when we first backed it in 2004 are still there. As an award-winning airline (recently judged Airline of the Year 2011*), we can relate to its drive, focus, competitiveness and desire for excellence in all aspects of its operation.
In recent times, Emirates itself has increased its New Zealand commitment with its services, introducing the exceptional Emirates A380 superjumbo to the market and enhancing its three other daily services with the latest Boeing 777-300ER, commented Sheikh Ahmed.
*Judged Air Transport World magazine Airline of the Year 2011