The big lift as Alinghi's Cup contender takes her first steps as she is lowered into Lake Geneva

Stage one, build the boat. Stage two launch. But this was no ordinary launch day where greased rails, a bottle of champagne, a short speech before the product months of hard work slips effortlessly backwards into the water. Today, technology and a world heavy weight helicopter were required to launch the America’s Cup Defender’s new yacht, Alinghi 5.

There will have been plenty of gnawed fingernails in Villeneuve today (Wed 8 July) as the 90ft catamaran was lowered into the lake. Today meant more that just the launching of a new boat, Alinghi’s Cup defence depends on being able to sling this giant cat beneath the helicopter and fly her to the next America’s Cup venue.

Disassembling the beast is not an option according to her designers so moving her by road is a non-starter. If flying her over the Alps isn’t on and today’s launch was as much about figuring out how practical this might be and how much fuel would be required by the helicopter, the alternative is taking her down the Rhone and craning her out at every lock and bridge. Clearly, few want to contemplate this.

Judging by the smiles on the faces of team boss Ernesto Bertarelli and the senior team members, all went well. After all, they’d tell us if it hadn’t wouldn’t they?

Here’s how the day went according to the team.

At 16:00 this afternoon, Alinghi 5, the Swiss America’s Cup Defender’s new catamaran, was lifted out of the tent where it was built in Villeneuve, Switzerland, and into the air by a Mil Mi-26 helicopter, the biggest and most powerful in the world, to be launched on Lake Geneva.

Alinghi 5 represents a first step in the development process towards the 33rd America’s Cup and the team will now focus on preparing it to sail over the coming weeks.

Ernesto Bertarelli, Alinghi team president, who was present to congratulate the team and for the boat christening by his wife Kirsty, commented: “As a passionate multihull sailor I am extremely excited to see Alinghi 5 launched and for the next stage of this campaign to begin: over the coming weeks and months the team will work towards defending the 33rd America’s Cup next year. The team has done an excellent job to make this happen; we are all looking forward to going sailing now.”

Watching as the helicopter lifted Alinghi 5 out of the tent and on to the water, Grant Simmer who, working alongside a team of designers, boat builders and sailors, has coordinated the project said: “I feel very proud of what we have achieved; there have been so many people involved who have worked really hard. They have done a fantastic job and this is the product of their hard work.”