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America's Cup: Recon Diary - AC40 has lift-off - Sept 20, 2022

by America's Cup Media 21 Sep 14:52 BST 21 September 2022
America's Cup Recon Emirates Team New Zealand AC40 Day 1 - September 20, 2022 © Adam Mustill / America's Cup

The greying light of a New Zealand spring day punctuated by sunlight that oh so wants to be summer amid intermittent rain showers that shrouded the downtown Auckland skyscrapers was the backdrop for a momentous moment in the story of this AC37 cycle.

Emirates Team New Zealand, completed the first launch and tow test of their new AC40 in Auckland, the team's first day back on the water since 17th March 2021 and the start of a whole new chapter in America's Cup history.

That the AC40 is stunning, is of course, more by design than luck. The detailing is magnificent and refined with straight flat wings so favoured by the Kiwis in their final designs for AC36, squared off at the tip sat on arced foils that wouldn't look out of place in the Guggenheim.

At the connection point between wing and foil a small rim mounting can be seen, easing the water flow before it connects with the trim tab just behind. It's all in the detail and there's plenty of it. The cantilever connecting through the hull to the rams driven by stored power are neater than we've seen before bisecting amidships with a dillet on the hull form derived from the team's all-conquering Te Rehutai design of AC36.

That hull form is the blueprint, the starting point, the very genesis that every naval architect working in this business has scrutinised to the nth degree and the flaring of the hull at its entry and the skeg that runs full length with its fine rail leading from the bow to amidships is very much the signature of the Kiwi design-board.

Up forward the wind-wand, a crafted arrow-head of carbon pokes forward with a camera on its underside and it would be wise to reiterate to the fleet racers of the Youth & Women's America's Cup that it is not, repeat not, a sacrificial piece of kit as the racing gets desperately tight. Meanwhile the mast ball to which the carbon wing mast will be applied almost looks under-built. It's not of course, but simplicity reigns supreme in the AC40.

Walking down the deck, and it's that simplicity that really strikes. It's a boat designed to be sailed and raced hard with zero nod to comfort. The helm positions are in the forward two pods creating a race car feel with all-carbon steering wheels akin to single-seater track sport. And the elevator/rudder stack right on the stern is a structure straight out of Formula 1 housing, containing and harnessing the now-standard reverse gull wing rudder arrangement. It's simple, logical and highly functional.

Leaving the new Wynard Point dock for a first run having been christened by Emirates Team New Zealand designer Elise Beavis, shorn of its mast, the pocket rocket didn't disappoint on the tow-test. With the cool heads of Ray Davies and Nathan Outteridge running through the systems checks on the helm alongside Nick Burridge and Sam Meech in the aft pods, the team went through a series of manual foiling and flight control configurations before switching on the auto pilot to run through an extensive checklist of target speeds, foil trims and sensor testing.

Rising with ease, sat obediently behind the Hydrogen powered 'Chase Zero', the team went through the now standard testing that was such a feature of Auckland's Waitemata Harbour last summer.

With certain levels of complexity removed - but make no mistake the AC40s still have computer wizardry aplenty downstairs - this is next generation, next level stuff with a performance profile that will surprise. Those achingly cool houndstooth decals applied down this first hull herald the start of a new class, a new beginning and a new chapter in the America's Cup.

Later in the day the mast was stepped expertly by the shore team, systems were checked, protocols and procedures documented, and we are now just moments away from seeing the AC40 sailing for the first time.

The eyes of the Cup world are watching.

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