Emirates Team New Zealand have capped a successful year with the launch of their first test boat in Auckland.

The Kiwis ticked off another significant milestone in their preparations for the 35th America’s Cup after launching the AC45 test boat that has been loaned to them by Luna Rossa, of Italy.

“This is an accumulation of a huge amount of hard work by everyone in the team, especially the shore guys, but also the fantastic support that Luna Rossa have provided to us,” Kevin Shoebridge, the team’s chief operations officer, said.

The Italian team withdrew this year from the America’s Cup, to be held in Bermuda in 2017, in protest at a reduction in the size of the catamarans used at the America’s Cup for the second time in less than a year.

Emirates Team New Zealand also opposed the rule change but have pressed on with their campaign to regain the coveted “Auld Mug”, which they came agonisingly close to achieving before squandering an 8-1 lead in San Francisco two years ago.

The Kiwis will perform initial systems tests and gear checks on the test boat over the next several days before more serious testing begins.

“There are a lot of people across all departments in the team that are chomping at the bit to finally get out on the Hauraki Gulf testing an America’s Cup yacht again,” Glenn Ashby, their Australian skipper, said.

“The really exciting thing, other than flying around at some pretty insane speeds, will be that we are finally going to be sailing back in home waters and showing the public just how awesome these boats are up close again.”

The test boat will be put through a highly structured testing programme, with vital data gathered by sailors and designers to be used in the development of the team’s second test boat, which is expected to be rolled out early next year.

•After a three-month search to find the ultimate Japanese sailor, SoftBank Team Japan has announced that Yugo Yoshida and Yuki Kasatani will join the sailing team as they challenge for the 35th America’s Cup.

“Right from day one of the trials it became clear there were six applicants very much in the running for the two available places on the team,” Dean Barker, the SoftBank skipper and chief executive officer, said.

“However Yuki and Yugo really stood out in all areas of the testing process. Although very different athletes they both had the drive to earn their rights to the two positions.”

Yugo Yoshida, age 31, is an experienced Olympic 470 sailor and comes to the team following campaigns competing in the 2012 London Olympic games as well as several ISAF Sailing World Championships.

Yuki Kasatani, age 26, joins the sailing team as a strong competitive rower having competed in the All Japan Cup since 2009 most recently competing in the Coxed Pair and Double Scull events.

Both athletes will move to Bermuda immediately to start integrating with the team and begin an intense training regimen preparing them with the physical strength and stamina needed to sail the team’s new AC45S race yacht.

This story appeared in The Royal Gazette on December 15th, 2015.

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