We are now in the last few months before the 35th America’s Cup and while there are still many things to prepare before the main event, all six teams have crossed a major milestone — launching their America’s Cup Class yachts.
The first team to launch was Land Rover BAR early last month at their new base in Dockyard. The British team combined the boat launch with the opening of their base and the 11th Hour Racing Exploration Zone.
“It’s a great moment to see our AC50 Race boat hit the water in Bermuda,” Sir Ben Ainslie, the BAR skipper, said. “The launch represents the sum of all the team’s efforts to bring the America’s Cup home, and we’re delighted to get her in the water here in Bermuda.”
The boat — called R1 or Rita — was christened by Sir Ben’s wife Georgie.
Oracle Team USA was the next team to unveil its AC Class yacht — 17 — on Valentine’s Day — seven years to the day that the team first won the America’s Cup.
At the event, Jimmy Spithill, the Oracle Team USA skipper, said: “This is the boat we’re racing to win the America’s Cup. I’m really proud of this team and what we’ve achieved so far. I’d like to thank the design team, the engineering team, the shore support, and our full boatbuilding team, including the guys who couldn’t be here. They’ve made an incredible racing machine.”
Artemis Racing was up next with the launch of Magic Blue at their Morgan’s Point base. The boat was officially christened by Natalia Törnqvist, owner Torbjörn Törnqvist’s wife.
“It’s very exciting, rolling out the boat today,” said Nathan Outteridge, the Artemis skipper, at the time. “It’s been a long time coming! We’ve had two development boats over the last couple of years, testing various foils and systems, and what we’ve launched today is the result of everything we’ve learnt.
“We’ll get to go sailing on it very soon and then we’ll be racing it for real in a few months.”
Emirates Team New Zealand christened their boat in Auckland. The biggest difference in the yacht is the cycling grinding system the team is using to produce the energy to power the hydraulic systems throughout the boat.
“It’s been a challenge to get to this point, and the first sailing has been a very special moment for the entire team,” Glenn Ashby, the Emirates skipper, said. “The next few months of sailing and development with our race boat will be some of the most important in this America’s Cup. We’ll do a month of intensive testing here in Auckland, then we will suspend the test programme and move to Bermuda where we will resume our training until racing starts on May 26.”
SoftBank Team Japan unveiled their brand new America’s Cup Class race yacht Hikari at their Dockyard base. Shinto Priest Kai Guji, who travelled from Kagoshima, Japan for the naming, performed a Japanese Oharai purification ceremony for the new boat using special talismans collected from several different Shinto shrines to bless the sailors, the yacht and the weather.
“It certainly helps to have a year of sailing in Bermuda under us and at the Cup it’ll feel like we’re sailing at home,” Dean Barker, the Team Japan skipper, said.
“We’ll have a much better understanding of what to expect and the three teams who were based here will hopefully have an advantage over the other three.”
Finally, Groupama Team France launched their yacht earlier this week at their new base in Dockyard in front of 50 members of the team.
At the event Franck Cammas, the Team France skipper, said: “A bit of emotion around today. It’s fantastic. Congratulations to the whole team. Everyone’s put in a huge amount of work with regards to the numerous details, with many long hours over recent months.
“Right now, we, the sailors, will have a bit of pressure on our shoulders to get the best-possible use out of this fine bit of kit provided by the designers and the entire technical team.”