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Last updated: July 12, 2011 12:27 pm
The finest sailors in the world take to 45ft wing-sailed catamarans next month for the first competition of the new multihull America’s Cup era which begins with the inaugural World Series regatta in Portugal, from August 6.
Match racing fans can expect thrills and spills when these finely balanced boats, exceptionally fast and manoeuvrable, take part in a showcase regatta for the first time. Ten teams from eight countries begin their challenge for world series points using identical AC45 catamarans designed to achieve speeds of up to 30 knots (36mph) within sight of spectators on the River Tagus waterfront at Cascais.
The Louis Vuitton Cup, the America’s Cup challenger series, was first raced in 1983 and has become the path to victory in the 160-year-old America’s Cup. To win the America’s Cup, a challenger must first win the Louis Vuitton Cup.
But since the very first Louis Vuitton Cup, when Australia ended sport’s longest winning streak, the challenger who has won the Louis Vuitton Cup has then gone on to claim the America’s Cup four out of seven times.
The French luxury goods maker has become an enthusiastic partner in embracing the spirit of reinvention and renewal at the heart of the 34th America’s Cup.
This year’s new logo for the Louis Vuitton Cup expresses a dynamic and fresh look, in keeping with this spirit.
Pietro Beccari, executive vice-president of the group, said: “When we started to work on the new logo for the Louis Vuitton Cup, we wanted to give it a modern and dynamic design which reflects the spirit of the competition. We began by playing with the sails and the hulls of these huge boats, from which we found the inspiration for the logo of next Louis Vuitton Cup.”
The company says the deep blue in the new logo refers to the sea and the yachting universe, while the brick red terracotta colour is taken from the interior colour of Louis Vuitton’s leather goods. The design will travel the world until the next victor lifts the oldest trophy in sport.
Teams entered for the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco in two year’s time, including defending champions Oracle Racing, will go head-to-head in a new format with new race courses which include match racing (one on one), fleet racing and time trials over a 500-yard course, another innovation for the sport.
The final America’s Cup challenge list has teams from seven countries and a $50m budget for TV coverage over the next two years. The teams will by then be racing the 72ft wing-sailed versions of the new boat, designed and built by each team, for the second ACWS series, the challenger elimination trials, the Louis Vuitton Cup, and the match between the defender and the single victorious challenger (Oracle).
The Cascais world series regatta will include three days of qualifying heats and elimination rounds (races of about 20 minutes), leading up to a one-on-one contest to find the overall match-racing winner. On the final day, August 14, a 40-minute race between all teams will determine the champion of the regatta.
It will be Europe’s first chance to see the AC45s in action. They were on the water in Auckland Harbour, New Zealand, in the spring and in late June Oracle put two boats through their paces in San Francisco Bay. There will also be world series events in Plymouth, England, in September, and San Diego in November and more events are planned for 2012.
This year’s America’s Cup campaign newcomers will be Team Korea’s White Tiger Challenge, Italy’s Venezia Challenge, Sweden’s Artemis Racing, the new America’s Cup challenger of record, Spain’s Green Comm Racing and two French entrants Aleph and Energy Team.
Trans-ocean legends Loick Peyron (helmsman for Team Energy) and Alain Gautier sail against inshore racing world champions, Olympic medalists and past America’s Cup winners. Veteran campaigner Grant Dalton is chief executive of Emirates Team New Zealand and rising match racing monohull star Torvar Mirksy, at just 25, helms Venezia Challenge. Kim Dong Young is chief executive of Team Korea, and Philippe Ligot chief executive of Aleph.
Vasilij Zbogar, a 35-year-old double Olympic medalist in the Laser class from Slovenia, helms Spain’s Green Comm Racing. Terry Hutchinson, who will helm Artemis Racing, said: “Having raced TP52s there in the past, we know that course will provide for good breeze and in this new breed of boat should elevate the excitement level to a standard we have not seen before.”
James Spithill will helm one Oracle Racing boat and Russell Coutts, team skipper, a second. Coutts found the edge of the new catamaran’s performance when it went into a spectacular catapulting capsize in San Francisco Bay in June sending him headfirst at the rigid sail.
Wang Chaoyong, chairman of China Team, said: “Even though we are new to the world of sailing, we will be ready to compete against the best sailing teams in the world for the most prestigious sailing sports trophy.”
Simon Greaves is FT.com’s sailing correspondent
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