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America's Cup: Emirates Team NZ's AC75 begins its voyage across two oceans

by Team NZ 24 May 18:20 NZST
Te ReTe Rehutai about to be loaded as deck cargo on the Baltic Spring at the port of Mt Maunganuihutai about to be loaded as deck cargo on the Baltic Spring at the port of Mt Maunganui © Emirates Team New Zealand

Emirates Team New Zealand's America's Cup Defender 'Taihoro' has departed from the Port of Mount Maunganui, destined for the 2024 America's Cup Match in Barcelona, Spain.

The voyage follows in the wake of the 2021 America's Cup champion 'Te Rehutai' which took just over a month to make the same voyage, arriving on July 7, 2023.

Both yachts traveled as deck cargo on freighters carrying fruit to Europe.

Taihoro is expected to travel to Europe via the Panama Canal. Baltic Spring, the ship on which it is travelling has the port of Balboa at the western entrance of the Panama Canal is listed as its intermediate destination.

The AC75 leaves New Zealand after a helter-skelter commissioning session in Auckland, sailing on 14 of 18 available days. Launched on April 12, Taihoro sailed on the day it was splashed outside the team base in Auckland's Jellicoe Harbour. The sailing program included one session sailing in 25-35kt winds - a courageous move given the wind limit for America's Cup racing to start is 23.5kts. Those were probably the most extreme conditions in which an AC75 has sailed.

The migration of the team and all its assets to Barcelona was not the first rodeo for the New Zealand team which has competed in the America's Cup since 1986.

“We have had a bit of practice with logistics and shipping over the years but it is always very full on,” said Kevin Shoebridge. “It is a huge task for Andy Nottage logistically and the likes of Sean Regan and the wider shore team ensuring everything is packed securely and leaves in a precise order out the door for its subsequent arrival into Barcelona.”

The arrival of containers and equipment is paramount when looking ahead to the construction of the workshops and wider working space within the Emirates Team New Zealand Barcelona base, all with the ultimate objective of being ready to receive Taihoro and prepare the yacht and the team to get back out on the water in Barcelona as soon as possible.

As if that is not enough to keep the team busy, a dual operation has been running in parallel with the two boat AC40 match race training schedule for the sailing team, along with training of the Emirates Team New Zealand Women & Youth crews.

Ray Davies, Emirates Team New Zealand Coach has been central to running an efficient on water program and maximising the short hours of autumn daylight each day for both purposes.

“We have had a great spell on the water over the past couple of weeks with the AC40’s.” said Davies. “We have had some highly competitive match race training for our sailing team, Nathan Pete, Andy & Blair have been locking horns with Josh Junior and Sam Meech with Marcus Hansen and Gemma Jones in the trimming positions. It is prestart and race scenarios that are always a huge step up in intensity from what can be achieved in the simulators, so the team have been getting a lot out of it.”

Speaking of which, the AC40 simulators have been a highly effective tool for the women and youth sailors, but time onboard the AC40’s is the vital progression the crews before the AC40’s are packed for shipping themselves and several of the sailors head to France for the Olympic games. (Jo Aleh & Molly Meech- 49erFX / Erica Dawson- Nacra / Veerle Ten Have- IQ Foil windsurfing / Josh Armit- IQ Foil windsurfing)

Davies has been impressed with what he has been seeing. “Our women & youth sailors have been putting in some really long days out on the water maximising every minute onboard the AC40 they can and working through the different combinations of positions on the boat.

It has been a bit of a baptism of fire for the women & youth in a way, as we have thrown them into the cauldron a bit. So, they have not only had to get to grips with learning the ropes of the AC40s, but they have also very quickly found themselves in some very aggressive and competitive training scenarios which will be invaluable for them. It’s been really encouraging to see the sailing teams working together to progress the level across everyone.”

The packing, shipping and migration north will continue for the next month with the massive task of booking over 300 Emirates flights and securing multiple Barcelona apartments for team members and their families by Steph Stubbs. All ready before the team arrive to reassemble at the Barcelona base in preparation for Taihoro’s first sail in just over 1 one month’s time..

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