America's Cup: A Day of Celebration for the AC45

34th America’s Cup - AC45 - Maori Blessing ceremony by Ngati Whatua Elder and Lady Pipa Blake

With its technical shakedown now complete, it was handover day for the new AC45 wing-sailed catamaran, marking the beginning of the next era of the America’s Cup. America’s Cup Race Management (ACRM) will now manage the logistics, care and maintenance of the prototype as competitors test the boat over the coming weeks. The AC45 is the forerunner to the larger AC72, which will be used in the 34th America’s Cup.

A traditional Maori blessing started the day as competitors, prospective competitors and New Zealand dignitaries converged to see the latest in America’s Cup technology and celebrate the tireless effort of the New Zealand marine industry to make this occasion possible.

'To see the AC45 come together from just a concept in September to a full-fledged racing machine by January is a true testament to the skill of the New Zealand marine industry,' said Iain Murray, America’s Cup Race Management (ACRM) CEO and Regatta Director.

'In particular we have to thank the team at Core Builders Composites who have produced an incredible boat that is fast yet robust. They remain hard at work on the balance of the AC45 fleet, which will be delivered to the teams for testing through April, before we leave Auckland to compete in the 2011 America’s Cup World Series.'

After the ceremonial blessing and words from Mayor of Auckland Len Brown and Associate Director of New Zealand Tourism Jonathan Coleman, ORACLE Racing's Jimmy Spithill got up to share his experience on the AC45, as well as he's hope for young sailors everywhere.

'I was excited about the potential of multihulls in the America’s Cup before, and now that I’ve sailed the AC45, I’m even more excited about what this means for the 34th America’s Cup. And also, what the AC45 means to the future of our sport,' said Spithll. 'This boat will be the centerpiece of another great new addition to the 34th edition - The Youth America’s Cup. Quite simply, there must be a pathway in place for young sailors to reach the front door of an America’s Cup team, and the Youth America’s Cup will create clear opportunities for young sailors that aren’t really there at the moment.'

And we could have been looking at the America's Cup future, as four of New Zealand's top Olympic hopefuls - 470 sailors Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie, and 49er sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke - were recognized for their accomplishments and their accomplishments to come. Connections to the America's Cup run deep in New Zealand, as evidenced by Jo Aleh's start in sailing. As a nine year old, Jo watched Team New Zealand win the 1995 America’s Cup for the first time, and she was so inspired, she immediately went out and booked a sailing course.

So what did they think of the AC45? Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron youth sailor Edwin Delaat summed it up with his recent experience sailing near the AC45.

'The first time I saw it, there was about 10 knots of breeze and they must have been going more than 20 knots, just flying past us,' said 14-year old Edwin. 'Just amazing.'