America's Cup: New Cup cat purrs 'like F1 car'

Russell Coutts steers the AC45 for the first time

Sir Russell Coutts felt like Barney Rubble when he climbed on board the wingsail catamaran - the new face of the America's Cup - on the Hauraki Gulf this week.

After declaring the new style of Cup racing under his watch would meet the expectations of the Facebook generation, not that of the Flintstones, Coutts yesterday admitted feeling a little prehistoric sailing the AC45 built to usher in the new era.

He is, after all, 48, and far from race-fit after a minor illness over Christmas. Yet it took only a minute before he kicked Oracle Racing skipper Jimmy Spithill off the helm on his debut sail in Auckland on Thursday.

'I loved it. It's a really responsive boat - it's not like driving the family saloon, this is a Formula One car,' Coutts said, predicting this scaled-down version of the AC72 Cup boat will do more than 30 knots in the right conditions.

It is, of course, in Coutts' best interest to talk up the merits of the multihull, with the closing date for entries still two months away. So far there are six entries, including defender Oracle Racing. And there were broad hints yesterday that Emirates Team New Zealand is the as-yet unnamed entry.

Spithill said yesterday that Oracle and Mascalzone Latino had booked the first week, with Team New Zealand taking their turn in the second week ahead of the Swedish Artemis Racing.

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