WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Team New Zealand’s first generation yacht which it hopes will help it successfully defend the America’s Cup next year has returned home without leaving a shipping container after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of regattas in Europe.
The America’s Cup defenders said the yacht ‘Te Aihe’, the Maori word for “dolphin”, arrived back at their base in Auckland early on Tuesday after returning from Italy.
“It is good to see her back sooner than expected,” Team New Zealand (TNZ) logistics manager Andy Nottage said in a statement. “She has been on quite the adventure, but it is good to have her home in one piece.”
Te Aihe was launched last September and after some initial trials on Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour was sent overseas in February for America’s Cup World Series regattas in Sardinia and Portsmouth.
Both regattas were cancelled due to the pandemic and the AC-75 monohull returned home without its shipping container’s seals being broken, TNZ said.
The regattas were the first opportunity for the competing syndicates to test boats under race conditions.
Nottage said the early return would allow the team to put the boat back in the water quickly and test some new components that had been in development.
Teams are allowed to build two versions of their yacht, with the second generation expected to be used for racing.
A regatta for the four challenging syndicates is scheduled to be held in Auckland next January-February before the winner faces TNZ for the America’s Cup from March 6.
Concerns have been raised that travel restrictions to curb the spread of the new coronavirus could delay teams arriving in Auckland while the New Zealand government acknowledged it could have “some impact” on the event.