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Oracle boat takes to Great Sound

Heaven 17: Oracle Team USA’s boat makes its debut on the clear blue waters of the Great Sound yesterday (Photograph by Sam Greenfield/ORACLE TEAM USA)

Oracle Team USA took to the Great Sound yesterday, sailing their new America’s Cup Class boat, 17, for the first time.

“We had a successful day,” skipper Jimmy Spithill said. “First impressions were great. The boat went really well, so everyone is happy.”

The new boat was first revealed to the public last week, and yesterday marked the first sail for 17. The team were on the water for four hours, completing a series of preliminary performance and safety tests.

“We had a good extended session on our first time out,” Spithill said. “Today was a perfect day for that first sail, 10-12 knots, so we wanted to take advantage of that and work out all the kinks.”

More than 15 designers and 50 boatbuilders contributed to the design and build of 17.

“We’ve made a big step,” sailing team manager and tactician Tom Slingsby said. “The boat was doing well, the new foils are quite nice, it was about as good a first day as you could hope to have.”

For all the preparation on the test boats over the past two years, the new America’s Cup Class boat has plenty of developments that require constant learning from the athletes on board.

“This boat may look similar to the old boat, but it’s not,” Slingsby said. “There are a lot of changes. We have a very different playbook for this boat and even then, it’s constantly evolving.”

Slingsby says the next step is to load the boat up in stronger winds before turning to full race practice mode. “It would be good to have more breeze next time, then we’ll be into race laps and we’re good to go,” he said.