The New York Yacht Club’s American Magic has become the first challenger to sail on the New Zealand waters where the America’s Cup will be contested next year.

American Magic sailed its foiling 75-foot monohull Defiant for nearly seven hours on Waitemata Harbor on Monday New Zealand time (Sunday in the United States). It was the first time the crew sailed the boat since March 3 in Pensacola, Florida.

“We had a great day. It was nice to go sailing,” skipper and executive director Terry Hutchinson said in a phone interview from Auckland. “I’ve got no complaints. It was really good.”

Like pretty much every other sport, the buildup to the 36th America’s Cup has been disrupted by the coronavirus. Defending champion Emirates Team New Zealand and the three challengers were set to sail their radical sloops for the first time in two America’s Cup World Series preliminary regattas in Italy and England during the spring, but they were canceled due to the pandemic.

American Magic had been within days of shipping Defiant to Europe before the regattas were canceled. While it didn’t sail the boat again in Florida, the team was able to make improvements to the yacht before shipping it to New Zealand. It arrived late last month.

The crew — including helmsman Dean Barker, an Auckland native — arrived in stages, and went through mandatory quarantine.

“It’s been almost five months, but we met our objective,” Hutchinson said. “We met our timelines. It’s nice to have this part of the program behind us.

“From the team perspective, it’s great to see the team execute on a really hard plan,” he added. “We’re still constructing our base here, and all these little milestones are a measure of the team’s progress. It’s great to see the team on and off the water get things done. It’s great to see the sailing operation up and running.”

Hutchinson said the crew tested some new sails and some new systems, “all of which take time. Once we were able to do that, it was free sailing with no testing or anything except to go out and let it rip and get back into it. It was 10 to 13 knots, just really nice conditions. In that regard, it was really good.”

The other two challengers, INEOS Team UK and Italy’s Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team, are scheduled to relocate to Auckland later this summer.

American Magic’s second boat, which is under construction in Rhode Island, is scheduled to be flown to Auckland in September.

A final ACWS regatta is scheduled for Auckland just before Christmas. The Prada Cup for challengers is scheduled for Jan. 15-22, with the winner to meet Team New Zealand in the America’s Cup match March 6-21.

Hutchinson said Defiant will be back on the water Tuesday New Zealand time.

The America’s Cup is already a tough competition, and Hutchinson said American Magic has responded well to the many challenges brought about by the pandemic.

“It’s what we have to do if we want to win the America’s Cup,” he said.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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