America's Cup 2021: Spies out in force to inspect Team NZ's new 'weapon'

Team New Zealand have 'splashed' their first AC75 - the foiling monohull that's been described as a jet plane on water. 

Christened Te Aihi - the 'Dolphin' - the latest America's Cup design was officially launched on Friday, but showed it was about much more than just a boat.  

A weapon, a Formula One car, a fighter jet - it really was quite unlike anything that's sailed before. 

This was Team New Zealand's vision - a foiling monohull that pushed the boundaries of sailing technology, while keeping alive the traditions of the world's oldest sporting prize. 

"Phew, it's out there," said sailing commentator Peter Lester. "You're not going to die wondering." 

Hundreds were invited to the official launch - a blessing, followed by the traditional champagne bottle over the bow, before it was very carefully lowered into the viaduct for the first time. 

All went off without a hitch, with the weather even playing its part. 

"It's tears of the gods as such," said Team NZ chief executive Grant Dalton of the rain. "It absolutely is.

"As good yachtsmen, we're very superstitious and it rained when we launched the last boat, when we won in Bermuda, so we wanted it to rain and it played ball."  

Two years, 100,000 man-hours and many millions of dollars have gone into designing and building the boat. 

Te Aihe is launched in Auckland Harbour
Te Aihe is launched in Auckland Harbour. Photo credit: Photosport

If all goes to plan, it could reach top speeds of 50 knots - more than 90kph.  

This time around, all teams get the same foils that provide the lift, but the design of the hull could decide the winner in 2021.

The design is so revolutionary, some of the boatbuilders actually came down to the launch to check out how it sits in the water, because until now, they had no idea. 

"We've put everything into this," said Team NZ design head Dan Bernasconi. "We haven't held back.

"We've got to learn as much as we can from this boat. It's basically putting everything out there everything on the table." 

And spies from the challengers were there, soaking up every angle too. 

"We would be disappointed if there weren't any spies," said Bernasconi. "We had far fewer of them around the last time around - they'd half written us off, I think."  

Team New Zealand won't have that luxury this time around. 


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