AC40 first sail on the horizon as Emirates Team New Zealand carry out quality control testing in Auckland
With structural tests completed successfully the shore-based commissioning will continue this week
America’s Cup holders Emirates Team New Zealand have taken delivery in Auckland of the first of the new one-design AC40 class foiling monohull yachts that will be used for the preliminary regattas of the 37th America’s Cup, as well as for the Youth and Women’s America’s Cup events.
The first AC40 off the production line at the McConaghy Boats facility in China came into New Zealand by ship last week before quickly being transported by road to the Emirates Team New Zealand base for commissioning.
Standing by to receive the custom-built flat rack securing the AC40 at Northport in Whangarei was operations and reliability manager Nick Burridge.
“This is a massively exciting day for us, it's been a huge effort by the team at Emirates Team New Zealand, but also the team at McConaghy Boats who have presented us an immaculate looking boat and now we've got a pretty compressed sort of 10 to 12 days’ worth of quality assurance checks we're going to carry out on the boat.”
Structural testing of a new boat is always a tense moment for the engineers as the platform is flipped upside down and connected to a testing rig designed to simulate the predicted load cases the AC40 will experience while racing.
“We rigged up the boat with numerous sensors just to measure strains going through the hull for the tests,” explained mechatronics engineer Kelly Hartzell. “We've got a bunch of load cells that we hooked up so we could start pulling on things to make sure everything's behaving the way that we expect it to.”
As the loads were increasingly applied to the inverted AC40 it was as much about listening as it was about data collection.
“We all have to be really quiet so we can listen for anything going on structurally – little ‘tings’ or ‘pings’,” explained structural engineer Chris Hickey.
“Everyone's put a lot of hard work in so we're quietly confident – but you have always got to be prepared for the unexpected and to be a bit nimble to what happens during the test.
“The purpose here is to make sure the boat is structurally sound from a design and build point of view so that when we go sailing on the first day we can have confidence that the boat is as strong as designed, everyone will be safe and it will perform as it should.”
When that first sailing day might be is yet to be announced but when it happens it will be the first time Emirates Team New Zealand has sailed since race nine of the 36th America’s Cup in March 2021.
It also represents the beginning of the team’s mission critical on-water testing and development programme, the results of which will feed into the design and construction of the team’s next AC75 to be used at the 37th America’s Cup in October 2024.
The Kiwi team is not the only one looking for assurances from the AC40 structural test and commissioning process.
“The test results will also go a long way to verify the overall design of the AC40 class fleet and their readiness to go sailing for all of the America’s Cup teams – and ultimately the Women and Youth America’s Cup regattas” explained Emirates Team New Zealand principal naval architect Bobby Kleinschmit.
“The AC40 is an important boat for us and for all the teams because it's a boat that most of our development is going to happen on. It's great to be able to take all the work that we've done, everything that we've learned in designing the AC75 and put that all together into a package.”
With the structural tests now completed successfully the shore-based commissioning will continue this week with a complete series of hydraulic, electronic, and PLC tests of sailing systems, as well as simulating more than a 100 tacks and gybes inside the base.