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6 September 2004, 09:27 am
Journey Begins In Marseille
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© Gilles Martin-Raget

America's Cup
Marseille

In the end, it was a perfect day for the opening race of the 32nd America's Cup, and the action on the race course of the Marseille Louis Vuitton Act matched the weather.
After a delay to allow the expected Southeast wind to build and stabilise, the first America's Cup racing in Europe in more than 150-years began with the spectacular sight of six boats charging across the starting line.

The Race Committee was initially forced to postpone racing for over two hours before the wind was stable enough to allow a start. The patience of the 500-boat spectator fleet was amply rewarded however, when racing started in a gusty, 15-19 knot Southeasterly, and the Marseille Louis Vuitton Act fleet battled to keep equipment and crews in control around the race course.

None of the teams managed to engineer their way around the 15-mile race course completely unscathed, as spinnakers burst, spinnaker poles were broken, and at times the crew work showed the rust of an extended layoff from training on America's Cup boats.

The new format of the fleet race added to the excitement as races within the race developed up and down the length of the course.

Team alinghi wins, delta - 0:35

The Defender of the America's Cup, Team Alinghi, and the team it beat in Auckland, Emirates Team New Zealand showed why they were the class of the last America's Cup. The two teams, who trained together for several days on the Rade Sud last week, streaked to the front of the fleet early, and managed to leave the other competitors behind. Although BMW ORACLE gamely fought to stay in the game Further back in the fleet, the two French boats, LE DEFI and K-Challenge, were in a tight fight with the South African Challenge, Team Shosholoza, as the teams exchanged the final three places several times throughout the race.

It was a powerful performance by Team Alinghi, helmed by Peter HOLMBERG, as the Swiss Defender showed that losing Russell COUTTS doesn't mean they won't mount a ferocious defence. Emirates Team New Zealand, handicapped by a damaged spinnaker pole on the first run, managed to stay with Alinghi, in a scene reminiscent of the last America's Cup. Team Shosholoza too fought through several torn spinnakers to make a proud debut for Africa in the America's Cup; they achieved their goal of beating at least one other team. It was a difficult day for the two French teams, who showed the rust of not sailing America's Cup class boats recently, but K-Challenge and LE DEFI will see today's result as motivation for the rest of the week.

Fleet Race One - Result

1. Team Alinghi 6 points
2. Emirates Team New Zealand 5 points
3. BMW ORACLE Racing Team 4 points
4. K-Challenge 3 points
5. Team Shosholoza 2 points
6. LE DEFI 1 point
AC Management (As Amended By ISAF News Editor)
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