Oracle launch USA-71As if on cue the sunshine broke through a bleak winter's morning to shine down on USA-71, the first new boat of 2003 America's Cup Challenger Oracle Racing, at a relaxed ceremony at its Auckland sailing base today.
Dressed in typical christening garb of a long, gray 'skirt', USA-71 was given her first taste of Auckland water, lowered into the Viaduct Basin in front of Oracle Racing Team members and their families. But the skirt did not hide the boat's striking appearance - a charcoal gray hull with the brilliant red Oracle logo adorning both sides of her bow.
Oracle Racing's Legal Counsel, Melinda Erkelens, performed the traditional act of breaking a champagne bottle across USA-71's bow with aplomb, and in spectacular fashion she cracked the bottle of 'Moet' champagne on her first attempt. Bill Erkelens, Oracle Racing's Chief Operating Officer, was dockside to support his wife as she christened the new boat and then gave the team a 'toast'.
"USA-71 is the result of teamwork at its best. I am excited about all that this talented group of people here today has accomplished. We are a part of something new, dynamic and progressive, this boat is cool," Bill Erkelens said.
During the celebration, John Cutler, Oracle Racing's Sailing Operations Manager, acknowledged the crucial input of the entire Oracle Racing Team. "Today marks an incredibly proud moment for Oracle Racing. The launching today of USA-71 marks another milestone in our quest to win the America's Cup. USA-71 is a visible result of the teamwork , commitment and dedication from everyone at Oracle Racing," Cutler said.
Oracle Racing's Sailing Team Manager, Peter Holmberg also paid tribute to the collaborative efforts of the Oracle Racing Team. "It takes a lot of professionals, and in Oracle Racing's case, 142 talented and highly specialized individuals who are all trained in many facets to get all the pieces of the campaign moulded together. Today we are here to thank our team as well as pay tribute to our families and friends who support us each and every day," Holmberg announced.
In the afternoon, the Oracle Racing Sailing Team headed out onto the Hauraki Gulf to tune the latest piece of hardware. USA-71 is the first of two boats built for Oracle Racing's assault on the America's Cup 2003, and she will be joined by her sister yacht, USA-76, in early July - once the second boat is shipped to Auckland from Ventura, CA, where both of Oracle Racing's America's Cup Class (ACC) sailboats were built.
A special commissioning celebration will be held for the two sailboats in Auckland this July. The two sailboats will engage in an intense in-house racing program in the final build-up to the Louis Vuitton Cup Challenger Series, which begins October 1, 2002.