Alinghi promises technical thriller

24th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

The Swiss yachting team presents its giant high-tech catamaran on Lake Geneva.

Le Bouveret -- America's Cup holder Alinghi on Thursday promised one of the most exciting races in the regatta's history if US rivals Oracle drop repeated legal challenges ahead of the race in 2010.

The appeal by billionaire owner Ernesto Bertarelli came after the Swiss team promised technical advances in the next America's Cup, following the first sailing on its giant high-tech catamaran.

"It's the most exciting boat I've sailed or I'll ever sail, it's an awesome experience," said New Zealander Murray Jones, who skippered the 90 foot yacht on its first trials on Lake Geneva in recent days.

"It was a great experience to lift off and fly on that very first time on the boat; it's incredibly wide and long. I think everyone had a huge smile on their face," he said as the twin-hulled craft was presented here.

It has several technological elements, including foils that lift the hulls out of water.

Bertarelli pronounced the first days on the calm waters here a "success."

"For me it was possibly, if not the best day, one of the best days in my life as a sailor," he said.

But since it was launched, Alinghi 5 has triggered another legal challenge from Oracle in their lengthy court battle, and claims that it was breaking the rules by being powered.

A New York judge this week ordered the two teams to resume mediation in their dispute over the rules surrounding the oldest trophy in international sports.

Bertarelli urged Oracle, sponsored by US computer billionaire Larry Ellision, to end the costly battle over their America's Cup duel, which should take place by March 2010.

"We're going to have possibly, I'm certain, one of the most exciting America's Cup as long as our competitor, our partner in this, Oracle decides to drop the New York thing and come racing against us," he said Wednesday.

Oracle most recently accused Alinghi of wanting to change the rules of the duel with the alleged complicity of the International Sailing Federation (ISAF).

The two syndicates expressed satisfaction after the court hearing established the framework for the race by March 2010.

Alinghi said here that, as defending champions, it would announce the venue on 6 August.

"It's clear now that there are no rules and that the way we are going to sail is with power systems, that's the way it is," said chief designer Rolf Vrolijk as he showed media the catamaran.

The Dutch designer said there were "systems on board that can drive certain hydraulic functions."

Traditionally, sailing's most prestigious regatta has shunned any form of power to hoist sails or control and balance the boat, relying on cables, winches and sheer human effort.

Bertarelli insisted that technical innovation maintained the spirit of yachting's most prestigious trophy and its "fairly open-ended" Deed of Gift rules.

"The deed of gift is very straightforward with regard to the fact that it's much a technology race as it is a sailing competition," he said.

"It's been like that since the Americans first sailed to England to demonstrate that their naval technology was superior to the English."

But months of "legal uncertainty" discouraged sponsors, he added.

"It's certainly the most expensive America's Cup we've ever had to finance," said the Swiss billionaire, who sponsored the team to victory at its first attempt in 2000, although he gave no numbers.

Swiss media reported that after banking giant UBS, a watchmaking firm and a coffee company had pulled out of sponsoring Alinghi.

Team members said the catamaran would be flown under a giant Russian helicopter some 300 kilometres to the Mediterranean Sea in early August for further trials off the Italian coast at Genoa.

Meanwhile, Oracle has been testing an equally giant trimaran off the US West Coast.

AFP / Expatica

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