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Oracle Christens America's Cup Catamaran

AC45 Oracle Racing 24

With a traditional splash of champagne, defending America's Cup champion Oracle Team USA christened and launched its new 72-foot, wing-sailed catamaran on Tuesday.

Then, with the wind blowing 27 knots on some parts of San Francisco Bay, the syndicate canceled the fast cat's maiden voyage, deciding it didn't want the shakedown cruise to potentially become a breakdown cruise.

"There's plenty of time to shake it down," syndicate CEO Russell Coutts said by phone.

Oracle will sail its new catamaran in the 34th America's Cup match beginning Sept. 7 against the winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup for challengers.

Judith Sim, Oracle Corp.'s chief marketing officer, smashed a bottle of Moet across the bowsprit and christened the boat Oracle Team USA 17 in a ceremony at San Francisco's Pier 80.

It's the second boat built for this America's Cup campaign by Oracle Team USA, which is owned by software tycoon Larry Ellison. Ellison was not at the christening.

Holding off on the maiden voyage was a good idea, considering that Oracle's first boat capsized in wind of about 25 knots on Oct. 16 and was swept more than four miles past the Golden Gate Bridge by a strong ebb tide. The churning motion of the waves destroyed the 131-foot wing sail. The syndicate wasn't able to sail again until early February, after a new wing sail had been shipped from Auckland, New Zealand.

Coutts, a four-time America's Cup winner, said the syndicate will try to get its new boat onto the bay on Wednesday morning.

Skipper Jimmy Spithill said in a phone interview that it'll probably take a few days of sea trials to check all the systems before the crew can begin pushing the boat.

"It's completely different," Spithill said. "Everything we learned from boat one has been incorporated into boat two. These are incredibly difficult boats to sail. They're physically demanding. These boats are a handful, but they're also very rewarding. It's incredibly thrilling to sail them."

Coutts and Spithill said Oracle has made advancements in both the wing sail and the hydrofoils the catamaran rides on as its hulls lift out of the water.

The wing sail looks and acts like an airplane wing, improving the yacht's speed and maneuverability. The wing sails on the AC72s are an offshoot of the radical 223-foot wing sail that powered Oracle's giant trimaran to victory over Alinghi of Switzerland in the 2010 America's Cup off Valencia, Spain...

...Read the full story here.

(Source: Google News: MercuryNews.com: Associated Press.)

(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, By chatani from Tokyo, Japan (ORACLE Racing AC45  Uploaded by Badzil) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)])

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