May 16, 2017 / 3:11 PM / 2 months ago

New Zealand gets Pirelli on board just in time for America's Cup

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LONDON, May 16 (Reuters) - Emirates Team New Zealand have signed up tyre maker Pirelli as a sponsor, just over a week before racing begins in the build-up to the 35th America's Cup in Bermuda.

Crews from Britain, France, Japan, New Zealand and Sweden are seeking to win the right to challenge Oracle Team USA next month, with Oracle chairman Larry Ellison's team looking to win the oldest trophy in international sport, known as the "Auld Mug", for a third time in a row.

New Zealand, who lost in 2013 after the Americans staged a stunning comeback in San Francisco, are already sponsored by airline Emirates, Japanese carmaker Toyota, Swiss watchmaker Omega and coffee group Nespresso.

The sponsors' branding adorns the hulls of the team's high-tech 50-foot black and red foiling catamaran and its towering "wing" sail, which are controlled using hydraulics.

New Zealand have set themselves apart by incorporating fixed cycles in their design, meaning the crew sits and pedals to power the hydraulics rather than "grinding" hand winches.

Pirelli and New Zealand said the tyre maker's distinctive red and yellow logo will not only feature on the hull, but also on the rudders, which are visible when the catamaran's foils lift it dramatically out of the water in "flight" mode at speeds of up to 50 knots (92.6 km per hour).

Qualifying racing begins in Bermuda on May 26, with the head-to-head races for the America's Cup between whichever crew emerges as challenger and defender Team USA starting on June 17. (Editing by Larry King)

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