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SailGP: NZSailGP's F50 is launched on nightfall in Bermuda - expected to sail Wednesday

by Richard Gladwell Sail-World NZ 20 Apr 19:26 PDT 21 April 2021
NZSailGP's F50 sits in the slings, in fast fading light, off the SailGP operational racing facility on Cross Island, Bermuda © NZSailGP

NZSailGP, the last of the eight competitors in the 2021 SailGP regatta, launched their F50 today in Bermuda just before nightfall.

The milestone event marks the end of a worrying time, when it seemed that with the initial COVID19 restrictions, the F50 would not be ready in time for the first round of the 2021 Series.

Several of the other F50s that will compete in the Bermuda event which gets underway on Saturday had a practice session on the Great Sound in fresh winds of around 20kts.

Earlier in the week the team sailed with their wing-sail using the platform from SailGP UK.

The flagship of the Live Ocean conservation and restoration campaign, NZSailGP's F50 was rigged after the other F50's had been craned ashore and then the kiwi AC50 had her rig lifted into position before being lowered into the water for an hour of testing and system setup and check. NZSailGP are expected to have their first sail tomorrow, Wednesday local time.

As darkness fell, the F50 was craned from the water of the historic Royal Dockyard, and unrigged under floodlights.

The dark hulled new F50 will be sailed by the NZSailGP team comprising several of the sailing team from Emirates Team NZ, who successfully defended the America's Cup last month. Due to disrupted shipping schedules, and particularly on the last leg to Bermuda, the decision was taken to send the unfinished boat from Core Builders in NZ to Bermuda for finishing and commissioning.

"It's an amazing milestone for the team to have the F50 in the water, it has taken a lot of hard work by many people to get to this point, and it now start to feel very real," said crew member Blair Tuke. Nodding to the blue Fern and the Live Ocean logo depicted in aqua blue and white on the mainsail, "we're going to take the message of ocean protection and restoration with us as we race this boat around the world", he added.

Despite the South Atlantic archipelago battling a COVID-19 outbreak, with 20 deaths and six people in critical care, plus a general curfew from 8.00pm to 6.00am. Bermuda has a high vaccination rate of over 60% on either their first or second shot. However SailGP has negotiated a set of protocols with the Bermudian health authorities and there seems to be no reason why the opening SailGP World Series should not take place as planned on Saturday and Sunday, with four America's Cup skippers on the startline of the fleet racing event, that will finish with a match race between the top two teams.

That process was delayed when Bermuda went into a COVID-19 lockdown, but is now largely complete - and the Peter Burling skippered crew should have three days of training on the Great Sound ahead of the start of the first event in Round 2 of SailGP which will be sailed on Saturday and Sunday.


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