Racing for the America's Cup will begin on the waters of Marseille's Rade Sud on the 5 September, 2004. The racing programme for the Marseille Louis Vuitton Act 1 was announced on Monday at a press conference held right on the edge of the race course area
"Spectacular competition, innovative ways of getting the public close to the action, and some of the best sailing teams in the world…this is the America's Cup in Europe. This is Act 1 in Marseille. We start with the Marseille Louis Vuitton Act and we continue in Valencia one month later,"
confirmed Michel BONNEFOUS, CEO of AC Management.
For the first time in its 153-year history, the America's Cup is a four-year event, with a series of regattas, each one a distinct Act in a story which will climax with the Louis Vuitton Cup and the 32nd America's Cup Match in 2007, in the host city of Valencia, Spain. The first of these Acts is the Marseille Louis Vuitton Act. The points earned by teams in September, in Act 1, will count towards their seeding for the Louis Vuitton Cup in 2007.
"This is the first time for these sailing teams to express themselves in this new America's Cup format,"
Bonnefous said. "We have initiated an exciting mixture of fleet and match racing to keep the sailing teams challenged, to make for an intense visual spectacle and to guarantee entertainment."
"This is a fantastic opportunity for Marseille to show the entire world our exceptional natural areas and coastline as well as the fullness of our talents,"
said Jean-Claude Gaudin, the Mayor of Marseille. "The Marseille Louis Vuitton Act, hosted in the heart of our city, on the J4, will demonstrate again the 'savoir faire' of the people of Marseille, and the beauty of the region."
The Marseille Louis Vuitton Act will combine Fleet Racing, where all of the teams compete against each other at the same time, with the more traditional Match Racing (the one on one duel) that has been the essence of the America's Cup since 1870.
Each element will count towards the final result, so the winner will be the most consistent performer across both disciplines. (Full regatta details were released in the recently published Notice of Race, which can be found on the official website at the address below
The Marseille public will be able to follow the racing from the many shoreside vantage points that the Rade Sud in Marseille provides. At the J4 Dock in the America's Cup Park, racing will be visible on a giant screen with live commentary in two languages.
"One of the reasons for the choice of Marseille for Act 1 is because of the large number of vantage points that the city provides right over the Rade Sud race course area,"
Bonnefous explained. "Our concept for the America's Cup means bringing this important spectacle close to the shore. We want the population of Marseille, and the teams - the heroes of the story - to be as close together as possible. The setting of the Rade Sud is perfect for this."
In addition, Marseille's collective marina capacity is home to over 5000 boats. Many of these are expected to go and view the racing from the water.
The public accessibility won't end with the action on the water. As in Formula One racing where you never leave the car outside every night, each racing boat will be lifted from the water and 'parked' in its cradle ashore for overnight maintenance, before being relaunched again the next morning. This too is part of the America's Cup spectacle. The America's Cup Park on the J4 dock at the entrance of the Vieux Port has been specially designed for the public to watch many of the shore activities of the race teams as they prepare for battle at sea.
The Marseille Louis Vuitton Act is also the beginning of four years of America's Cup television. For Act 1 the event will provide broadcasters with daily 26-minute specials. This programming will be distributed beginning halfway through the week (Wednesday 8th September), through to the end of the event, including a summary programme available on the 12th September. Daily news highlights and extended news highlights will be made available to all broadcasters from the start of the event.
On hand for the press conference were representatives from five of the teams already confirmed as entrants for Act 1: Team Alinghi, the Defender of the America's Cup; BMW ORACLE Racing Team, the Challenger of Record; France's LE DEFI and K-Challenge; and the South African America's Cup Challenge, Team Shosholoza. This marked the first public appearance of Team Shosholoza since it was accepted as a Challenger for the 32nd America's Cup on Friday, 4 June.
"It is tremendous to see all of the teams here, especially the newest addition to the America's Cup family, Team Shosholoza. We take this opportunity to welcome them, and wish them the best of luck,"
Michel Bonnefous said. "I would also like to thank Nespresso, who join us as a supporter of 32nd America's Cup. Nespresso, along with Louis Vuitton, Endesa and Grupo Santander are very important to all of us, and without their support we wouldn't be here."
Act 1 of the 32nd America's Cup, the Marseille Louis Vuitton Act, runs from the 5th through to the 11th of September combining Fleet and Match Racing. Due to space restrictions in the port, entries are limited to eight boats.
The opening of the event park, a parade of sail through Marseille's Vieux Port, and practice racing will take place on Saturday the 4th September. Many of the America's Cup Class boats will arrive on a special ship from Valencia, and are scheduled to be unloaded in the Port of Marseille on the 26th August. The fleet of boats, along with the teams themselves, will form part of the fabric of the city for the week before the competition starts.