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America's Cup: Big crowd sees first AC72 christened in Auckland +Video    
Sat, 21 Jul 2012

Emirates Team New Zealand’s America’s Cup AC72 catamaran was officially named at a ceremony Saturday evening at the Viaduct Harbour, Auckland in front of a crowd of several thousand cheering fans.

On a cool winter’s evening at Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour, the crowd numbered well over 6,000 gathered all around the Viaduct.

Emirates Team NZ's skipper Dean Barker's wife Mandy - an international hockey player who was a mainstay of the New Zealand team for many years - triggered the catapult which dropped a bottle of New Zealand wine, spraying the bow of the 72ft wingsailed catamaran.

Simultaneously, flames natural gas lines around the yacht and fireworks lit the sky as 18 months of work by the design and build teams moved from design/build to operational sailing mode.

Mandy Barker named the cat 'New Zealand' – continuing a long line of America's Cup Challengers that have carried the name. Usually a more colloquial name is later chosen for the boat.

For the New Zealand marine industry, built largely on the back of the shop-window provided by America's Cup campaigns, the launch was a significant milestone - as the first country to launch one of the new AC72 catamarans.

Team managing director Grant Dalton said the night could not have happened with the support of the Government and sponsors who backed the team with such enthusiasm.

'New Zealanders should be proud that their team attracts the support of these major international companies,' Dalton said.

'The same can be said for the international designers, engineers and analysts who augmented our design team.

'We are proud of what we have achieved so far, working in a tin shed in Auckland.

'We carry the New Zealand flag sponsors’ brands proudly and pledge that the mission of every member of this team is to bring the America’s Cup back to New Zealand.'

As the countdown to the big moment got underway Prime Minster John Key, Auckland Mayor Len Brown and sponsor representatives were led to the yacht by a Maori warrior.

With the yacht in the background, 1000 people pulled on a hemp rope to 'load' the catapult which smashed the champagne bottle and sprayed the boat.

It was a proud moment for the team, and New Zealand, signalling the beginning of the next stage of preparations for the 2013 America’s Cup.

The Black Cat is expected to start sailing next week, weather permitting.

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by Sail-World

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