What’s that old saying? Two’s company, but three’s a crowd. What about four second generation 75-foot flying monohulls about to descend on the Hauraki Gulf? As the Auckland temperatures begin to warm up, so will the action on and off the water for all of the teams now in Auckland as the days countdown to race time. In the next two months, The Defender Emirates Team New Zealand, and Challengers Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, New York Yacht Club American Magic, and INEOS Team UK will all be launching their ultimate race boats and tirelessly working them up to race mode before lining up for the first time in the PRADA ACWS Auckland and the PRADA Christmas Race starting on December 17.
But, the preliminary regattas not the main event, so how ready will they be? How much more speed will they be able to develop between then and March? Will the frequently mentioned ‘sandbags’ be used? Or will they even use their boat 2 in December? All to be revealed between now and the end of a very uncertain year due to COVID-19.
NYYC American Magic was the first Challenger to settle in New Zealand. They have been training consistently in Auckland on DEFIANT – their first AC75 – since late June and flew their second AC75, PATRIOT on the 9th of September from Providence (USA).
On the morning of the 5th of October PATRIOT was wheeled out of the team shed to sound of the competitors spy cameras clicking furiously, becoming the first second generation AC75 to see the light of day.
Commissioning could take a matter of days or weeks, but one thing appears likely, NYYC American Magic are likely to be first boat 2 to sail on the Hauraki Gulf.
Terry Hutchinson, Skipper and Executive Director of NYYC American Magic is confident they made the right call when decided to get earlier to New Zealand: “One thing that’s been great about our time in Auckland is the added intensity that comes with having the Defender just across the basin. They are the holders of the Cup, and they co-created the class rule, so they set the standard. Operating in close proximity has given us a few good insights and upped our focus level day-to-day compared to operating alone in North America. I think the two other Challengers will experience a similar dynamic.”
On the 1st of October it was the turn of RB2 (the code name for INEOS Team UK’s boat 2) to land down under. Flown onboard an Antonov cargo plane, the AC75 is now at the Brits new base on the Auckland’s Viaduct and will require minimal fit out, allowing the team to get it out on the water quickly. As confirmed by INEOS TEAM UK’s Skipper Ben Ainslie, team work has been of the essence in order to keep up with the schedule.
“As a Challenger you’re always playing catch up on the race boat design from the Defender who gets to define the rules. That’s the game we chose to compete in, so we had to give ourselves maximum design and build time in the UK, which meant the Antonov was the only transport option. It’s testament to the huge effort by the whole team to get RB2 built and delivered to New Zealand on schedule. We can’t wait to get her out sailing!”
The Challenger of Record Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli will be the final team to set up in Auckland. Although most of the Italian team is already in town, their first boat is still on its way in a cargo ship and due to arrive at the end of October while their second boat left the boatyard end of September and landed in Auckland, New Zealand on the 6th of October with the aim of being launched later in the month.
Max Sirena, Skipper & Team Director of the Italian syndicate is ready to get back at work: “We have finally been released from quarantine, definitely a new experience. It feels good to be back to Auckland which is a bit of a second home to me and my family after years with Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand in the last Cup. We can’t wait to be out on the water in the Hauraki Gulf!”
No clue has been given by the Defender Emirates Team New Zealand on when they’ll launch their second AC75, but they are taking every opportunity to keep pushing their testing programme on Te Aihe. “The days are really counting down fast now, and every hour we can get on the water just helps us learn more and more.” said Glenn Ashby.
“And we are basically stepping into what is the most exciting time of the whole campaign as we start to see each of the teams second AC75’s which will be their race boats. While there is still a lot of time for development, a big chunk of the AC36 puzzle is about to be put in place.”
In a game where secrecy is mandatory, quest for speed is never-ending, details and numbers are rarely revealed, every team has refused to get into specifics about their racing boat. So what should fans around the world expect? A lot has been said, written, speculated. Many experienced sailors and past America’s Cup key figures have expressed their opinion.
There are those who think that the differences between the boats will be considerable, those who are convinced that eventually the second generation of the AC75 will look pretty similar. Either way, the spectacle of watching these boats race will be one not to miss.
This is the America’s Cup, what will happen is anyone’s guess. No matter on what side of the world or what team people support, everyone in the next couple of months will be looking at Auckland to catch a glimpse of the new AC75s and to get an insight of the speed and power that the racing will showcase in the biggest event in sailing.
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