America’s Cup: new AC40 reaches 34 knots on maiden sail

America’s Cup Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand, has conducted a successful maiden sail of the new AC40, in the waters of the ‘back paddock’ between Auckland’s Waiheke Island and Howick Beachlands.

Just days after AC40 underwent a successful first test tow in Auckland, ETNZ continued to put the boat through some more commissioning tests. After a long tow out behind the team’s hydrogen-powered chase boat Chase Zero, the sails were hoisted and sheeted on.

It was helmsman Nathan Outteridge’s first day sailing a foiling monohull, and in a matter of minutes, the AC40 was up onto its foils and off on starboard tack at over 20 knots in the light 8-10 knots of breeze.

“It was obviously a very successful day, it was an impressive boat to sail for my first time sailing this type of boat,” says Outteridge. “A little unnerving when trying to build speed, but once you get a bit of speed and the foil engages, it goes from about 10 knots to 20 knots in about 5 seconds. So both pretty impressive, the acceleration and the reliability.”

Outteridge, and crew Ray Davies, Nick Burridge and Sam Meech had a full day on the water, initially going through a selection of straight line runs before throwing down their first tack, successfully staying up on the foils and carrying on upwind.

“Day one was pretty epic and exciting,” adds Davies. “An amazing team effort to go out there and pull off the first tack as a foiling tack, the first gybe a foiling gybe. The boat is going really well, we have a few tweaks for sure, but awesome to sail with Nath, Sam and Nick. All of the support guys have done an incredible job, out of the box, and we were ripping around foiling.”

The speeds of the AC40 were impressive in a relatively light breeze, reaching a top speed of over 34 knots downwind and 27 knots upwind in the steady NW breeze.

The autopilot is a key component for the Women’s and Youth America’s Cup regattas and impressed the team from the outset.

“The autopilot on day one has been fantastic,” explains Dan Bernasconi, chief designer of Emirates Team New Zealand, “so with a smaller crew and less experienced crew on these boats for the Women’s and Youth racing, the autopilot will be a really important feature.”

“After today, we know this will be just fine for the Youth and Women’s America’s Cup,” continues Davies. “It will be spectacular racing, super quick, super-efficient and all straight out of the box.”