SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., April 19, 2013—The 34th America’s Cup will soon be getting under way in San Francisco. There are three challengers: Emirates Team New Zealand, Luna Rossa Prada (Italy), and Artemis (Sweden), who will compete in July and August in the Louis Vuitton Challenger Series. The winner of that series will sail against defender Oracle Racing (United States) in September, to determine the holder of the America’s Cup.
Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) is currently in Naples competing in the sole America’s Cup World Series event of 2013 (which uses a smaller boat: the AC 45), but while the team is racing, plenty of packing has been going on in Auckland. The team’s base of operations has been packed into more than 70 40-foot containers and is on its way to San Francisco.
In the containers are a 39-foot chase boat, two 45-foot tenders, a hydraulic travel lift, three 131-foot masts, and ETNZ’s two AC 72 catamarans. The entire campaign is expected to be up and running by May 23, allowing the team five weeks of testing and practice in San Francisco Bay.
ETNZ boss Grant Dalton described the Northern California waterway as “a completely different proposition” than Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour. “You’ve got narrow courses, and tides running at between four and five knots, which, combined with strong winds, creates a lot of chop and makes for tricky sailing,” said Dalton.
New Zealand has been a dominant player in the America’s Cup since winning in 1995 in San Diego and successfully defending again in 2002 in Auckland.
Emirates Team New Zealand was the first team from a country outside the United States to successfully win and then defend the America’s Cup.
The island nation has deeply rooted maritime traditions and Kiwi sailors are represented on every competing team in the 34th America’s Cup this year. New Zealand sailing teams have won most of the top international trophies including the America’s Cup (twice), the Whitbread (three times), the Admiral’s Cup (once), the Kenwood Cup (three times), the Southern Cross Cup (four times), all the Ton Cups, the Louis Vuitton, TP53 Audi Med Cup, and more.
The country is even at the forefront of technology surrounding the America’s Cup with the innovative wing sails and several other key components that have been designed and built in New Zealand.
My Visit with the Team
Last month, during my stay in Auckland, I had the chance to sail with ETNZ aboard the sleek AC 72. This boat, an ultra-light catamaran with a wing sail, is the model to be used by the teams in the 34th America’s Cup, and in the challenger selection series of the Louis Vuitton Cup regatta.
Each team’s designers and builders create their own hulls, wings, soft sails and underwater foils within the confines of the rules, and then test and refine their designs as the racing moves forward. Those wing sails are longer than a Boeing 747.
When I arrived at the team base, ETNZ was already out testing the AC 72. I was taken out to the harbor on a chase boat, outfitted in uniform, helmet and life jacket, and then boarded the boat.
At first, perched in the back, I had an ideal view of all the team members, as we zipped through the harbor. Later, I found a seat up front on the starboard side and was asked to help grind for a while. I’m certain my contribution wasn’t needed, but I can’t think back on that afternoon without getting a huge smile on my face. It was one of my favorite moments of my nearly two weeks in New Zealand.
Watch for coverage on all the teams as we get closer to the end of next month.
Jill K. Robinson is an award-winning journalist and adventure seeker. Follow her adventures on dangerjillrobinson.com and Twitter @dangerjr. Jill is an avid kayaker and owner of Half Moon Bay Kayak Company.
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