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Missing rudder no issue for Kiwis

The Team New Zealand boat is hauled out of the water on Saturday (Photograph by Talbot Wilson)

Emirates Team New Zealand sailed their America’s Cup Class race boat on the Great Sound for the first time over the weekend — and yesterday the Kiwis’ boat showed no ill effects from having a rudder missing when it was hauled out of the water on Saturday evening.

The boat, New Zealand Aotearoa, arrived in Bermuda on March 10 and was reassembled in just 12 days.

When New Zealand Aotearoa was being hauled out after the Saturday session, spectators noticed that the port side rudder was missing.

Crew members had been in the back of each hull working on something down inside where the rudders are installed.

A diver went in the water, apparently to find the missing port side rudder in the slip under where the boat had been, but the rope he took down to haul it up to the chase boat came up empty on the first try.

Team New Zealand have not commented on the incident, but they must have successfully found the rudder in the 40-foot deep basin and yesterday had two rudders installed when they launched. Of Saturday’s sail, Team New Zealand said: “The evening sail was more about a recommissioning of the systems and components to make sure everything was working properly before getting back into the mindset of pushing the development hard, day after day.”

Obviously pleased, Grant Dalton, the team’s chief executive office, said: “It was a huge effort by the shore crew and the whole team to get us out again.

“We’ve been off the water for about three weeks, part of that was at least a week’s refit of all the new components that have just gone into the boat.

“The water was dead smooth and that makes it a lot easier for the guys to sail and manoeuvre. We could see that in the very short sail we did today.”

On Saturday for the first sail, a fleet of Team New Zealand chase boats, about a half dozen chase boats representing the other challengers’ teams and many curious spectators trailed everywhere New Zealand Aotearoa went.

Not missing a beat, Team New Zealand were back on the water yesterday with a 2.15pm departure from their Cross Island base in Dockyard.

They were up and foiling as the headed out the channel and turned south into the Great Sound.

The breeze was from the West Southwest at about eight to ten kts and the seas had a slight chop, under two feet. These are conditions similar to what the racers should face in late May and June

The next racing practice period, an approved time when competitors can match race against each other, starts today.

With just 34 days to go until the first race of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers, the urgency for continued improvement by all the teams puts tension in the air.

“We will see how we go,” Ashby said regarding facing their opponents on Bermudian waters for the first time.

“We need to take our time to make sure we are happy with where we are at before starting any racing. But it will be good to get into some action with another boat as amazingly it is something we have not done at all yet.”

Team New Zealand reported they relaunched their race boat with their “replacement” daggerboards while the finishing repairs to their race boards.

“We would have preferred to have our race boards back in the boat, but we need to be sure the repairs are 100 per cent right so we don’t want to rush the repair.

“Hopefully we will have them come back online very shortly.” Ashby said. One of New Zealand’s racing daggerboards was damaged in training back home in Auckland.

“When you look at the calendar it actually hasn’t been too long since we last sailed in Auckland, but everything that has happened between times, packing up, flying the boat here and rebuilding it has made it seem a lot longer, the team has done a huge push to get us on the water as soon as possible,” Ashby added.

“It was really fantastic to get back out there [on the Great Sound] and get a taste of the racecourse first hand for the first time [in the America’s Cup Class yacht]. It is pretty apparent already that this is going to be a really great regatta up here.

“As a team it is important we remain totally focused and flexible to learning as much as we can from ourselves but also our competitors.”

“From what we have seen in the past few days, the other teams all look to have strengths as well as some weaknesses.

We will be no different so the race effectively has started as to who can make the most of these next five weeks to maximise all the speed they can in preparation for racing on the May 26.”