"We are delighted at the overwhelming response to our concept of a friendly series for top level international teams," said Yves CARCELLE, Chairman of Louis Vuitton. "We started with the hope that six teams would race and to attract ten top entries at such short notice is a great achievement. This will be the most outstanding gathering of international sailing teams since the Louis Vuitton Cup in Auckland in 2003."
Crews will take turns in racing one-on-one in New Zealand's NZL 92 and NZL 84 and BMW Oracle Racing's USA 87 and USA 98. The two American boats were offloaded from their transport ship just before Christmas and a team of 30 Kiwi and American shore crew members worked throughout the holiday period to prepare the boats for racing. The work included changes to the rigs and sail plans to make each pair of boats as equal as possible.
There will be six races each day on the Waitemata off North Head, readily visible to spectators ashore and afloat. There will be a daily draw to decide which yacht competing teams will sail that day. Renowned international race officer Peter "Luigi" REGGIO will fly to Auckland to head the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron's race committee.
Teams and Skippers
Representing New Zealand, America's Cup and Louis Vuitton Cup winner Dean BARKER (NZL) will skipper and take the helm for the home team.
Italy's Luna Rossa, winner of the 2000 Louis Vuitton Cup in Auckland and semi-finalist in Valencia, will have Virgin Island native Peter HOLMBERG (ISV) as its skipper and helmsman.
Auckland's Russell COUTTS (NZL), three-time America's Cup winner, has never lost a race between 1995 and 2003. COUTTS, who has not raced at this level of competition since then, will return to skipper and steer for the USA's BMW Oracle Racing.
France will be represented by K-Challenge. The team's young skipper, Sébastien COL (FRA), was helmsman for the team in Valencia in 2007 and was runner-up ISAF Match Racing World Champion in 2008. He is currently ranked as the top match racer in the ISAF World Match Racing Rankings.
From Great Britain, TEAMORIGIN is a new bid for America's Cup success by the Royal Thames Yacht Club. Ben AINSLIE (GBR), Great Britain's most successful Olympic sailor, with three gold medals and one silver, is the skipper and helmsman. British Olympic Star gold medallist Iain PERCY (GBR) in China last year, is tactician.
For the China Team, British two-time ISAF Match Racing World Champion Ian WILLIAMS (GBR) has signed on as skipper and will take the helm in Auckland. The team was a first-time Louis Vuitton Cup competitor in Valencia in 2007. It's home is the Qingdao International Yacht Club.
South Africa's Team Shosholoza also made its debut in Valencia in 2007 as the first-ever challenger from the African continent. Italy's Paolo CIAN (ITA), who until recently was third in the ISAF World Match Racing Rankings, is skipper and helmsman.
Damiani Italia is a new team from Circolo Canottieri Aniene and Club Canottieri Roggero di Lauria, two of Italy's oldest yacht clubs. Vasco VASCOTTO (ITA), runner-up in the 2008 TP52 Worlds is skipper and tactician while Francesco BRUNI (ITA) is helmsman.
The most recently-formed team is the Greek Challenge, currently training on borrowed boats in Valencia. The team was started by courageous Greek and Canadian businessman Sotiris BUSEAS who is still finalizing negotiations with an international skipper and helmsman.
Auckland's Brad BUTTERWORTH (NZL) is skipper and tactician for Alinghi, the race-winning team from Switzerland that is the two-time winner and current holder of the America's Cup. American Ed BAIRD (USA) will again take the helm for the Swiss.
The Louis Vuitton Pacific Series is being organised in association with the New Zealand Government, Emirates Team New Zealand, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, Auckland City and Sky City Entertainment Group.