It was exactly two years and two days ago since Te Rehutai, the winner of the 36th America’s Cup last sailed. Back then she was the most efficient AC75 ever built with design nuances that were ahead of their time and the Emirates Team New Zealand team lifted the America’s Cup high and proud on behalf of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. Heady days.
Since then, Te Rehutai has stayed sealed inside at the back of the Kiwi team’s shed, far away from prying eyes, unwilling to give up even an ounce of intellectual property until the call was made to bring full-scale testing back into the AC37 cycle. I
American Magic used ‘Patriot’ their warhorse AC75 from the 2021 Cup to devastating effect early in their programme as they awaited the arrival of their AC40 Class yachts and were seen to effectively trial cyclor systems, no running backstays, boomless arrangements, innovative mainsheet rams and what Paul Goodison described as “a lot of things you just can’t see” in terms of systems.
Alinghi Red Bull Racing have performed above expectation with BoatZero the old ‘Te Aihe’ of Emirates Team New Zealand in AC36, dramatically improving performance by reconfiguring the deck layout, dropping crew numbers down to eight (from eleven) and introducing a self-tacking jib system. In short, full-scale testing certainly has its merits and speculation can only be cast as to whether we will see INEOS Britannia or Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli follow suit.
Pete Burling, the Cup winning helmsman from 2021 was buzzing to see ‘Te Rehutai’ back in the water saying: “It’s incredibly exciting to see it going back in thewater today, it’s a pretty cool milestone for our programme here as a team to get back into some full scale testing and obviously there’s some pretty big changes in the rule from the last edition of the America’s Cup through to this time with no runners on the boat and strengthening up the rig and today’s really been about making sure all those parts go back together and we’re ready to get back into some tuning.”
With a completely newlivery, Te Rehutai emerged from the shed with the underbody profile, foils and wings exactly the same as before, so it wasn’t until the boat was lowered into the dock that the Recon Unit could start to capture the changes that will have the designers and analysts from all the other teams poring over the photos. With the now famous ‘trench’ design, the Kiwis have opted for five ‘pods’ to be delineated on each side, that would indicate a crew of perhaps up to ten although what was observed was four cyclor pods installed, two helms and two flight control/trimmer positions. A question to be answered once we see the Kiwis sailing.
When the mast was lowered into position, a clear addition can be seen to the mast base of an angled, rake-inducing section that is perhaps 30cm extra with the mast rotation wings attached at the base. The old Code Zero sprit has been replaced by a weather prodder housing instrumentation. Gone, of course, are the running backstays whilst the mast ram needs closer examination with the mainsail up to see what innovations, if any are being introduced – from first sight, the ram looked similar to the traditional set-up.
Pete gave some more insight into the changes saying: “A lot of things have changed…we obviously can’t change the foils so they’re identical to what we raced the America’s Cup with, but a lot of things on the control system side of the boat is where we’re really trying to use this platform as our learning tool and it’s pretty cool to see it going back in the water now and to have our power unit back and a bit more involved in the programme than they are with the AC40, so it’s going to be a really cool thing to finally be sailing in the configuration that we’re thinking we might be sailing the America’s Cup in…Obviously the new rules are a whole heap lighter than the old rule…but I think that the class has really developed a long way since its first edition of the rule. We’ve taken obviously a lot of complication out of the sailing system, taken a heap of weight off the boat you know last time around we sailed around with a couple of 100kgs of lead just for making up your guest racer, a new code zero in the light etc, so it’s cool to see all that now stripped out and these boats really down to the bare basics of what we need to go racing.”
The sailing schedule is rumoured to begin on Wednesday this week and run through to the weekend. Te Rehutai is back, and it was a heck of a sight in the Auckland summer sunshine.
Watch this space for the first sail.
Recon Unit Notes: Te Rehutai was rolled out of the shed at 9.35am and after a multiple point turn was positioned head to the light south westerly on the dock edge. The rig was lifted into position at 10.00am but after an hour of trying to pull the forestay down to its chain plate/ram(?), the rig was lifted off again and rolled into the main shed where I saw the top strops on the cap stays being adjusted.
After this tuning the rig was lifted again into position at 13.10, by 13.55 all the stays were set, and the rigging crew got off the boat to prepare to launch. Te Rehutai was in the water in the pen at 14.10.
I now saw the team slowly go through some tests of the rig rotation and main sheet traveller using 4 cyclists to power the system. After these tests I saw, one at a time, the foil cant system cycled through its positions.
With a very happy looking team the boat was lifted out and back in her cradle by 17.15. It was cool to see the big boat in the water with up to 18 people onboard all focused on their own areas but working as a team.