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18 May 2005, 10:39 am
Twelve Teams, Ten Countries
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America's Cup 2007
Valenica, Spain

With the challenge deadline closed and the full line-up of teams confirmed, the 32nd America's Cup is sure to be the most diverse in the history of the event. Twelve teams representing yacht clubs from ten countries, across five continents, will take to the water in June in the host city of the America's Cup, Valencia, Spain.
Teams based in South Africa, Germany and China, are bringing their countries to the Cup for the first time ever. Europe is well represented with three entries from Italy (+39, Luna Rossa Challenge, and Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team), the United Internet Team Germany, the French K-Challenge, Desafío Español 2007, Sweden's Victory Challenge and the Swiss Defender, Team Alinghi.

At the same time, old hands in the America's Cup like Australia and Great Britain have failed to challenge, and the Americans have just one entry. What is happening here?

Firstly, the America's Cup is a much easier proposition for new teams and new countries than ever before. Relaxed nationality rules make it easier and less expensive to use experienced people, quickly getting a new team up to speed. Design information from previous teams can also be purchased, regardless of nationality, along with the old boats. The restriction now is simply that the hull of the boat raced in 2007 must be built in the country of the competitor. The new teams like South Africa's Team Shosholoza, China Team, Desafío Español, the Italian +39 and United Internet Team Germany are all beneficiaries of this.

Further, the America's Cup is in Europe for the first time in its 154 year history. A new continent provides inspiration in the form of the cultural changes that are inevitable with such a dramatic move. The German team is a direct indication of this, as are the three Italian entries.

However, none of that explains why the Australians and British are sitting this one out, and the Americans are represented by just one team, BMW ORACLE Racing.

Perhaps part of the reason can be seen in the quality of the teams entered. If the 32nd edition of the America's Cup is easier to enter than it has been in the past, it is also certainly as hard to win as at any time in its history. The Defender, Team Alinghi, looks certain to mount a ferocious defence. Leading challengers like BMW ORACLE Racing, Emirates Team New Zealand, and Luna Rossa, are each throwing massive resources in terms of time, money and personnel at their attempt to claim the Cup.

This can be daunting for potential challengers. It may not matter much if this is your first challenge and you do not expect to win, but for potential American and Australian teams who have each held the America's Cup before, it may be the case that they see the job of capturing the Cup as simply being too big. These are countries where mounting a reasonable challenge is not enough - nothing short of winning is expected.

The British situation is more difficult to fathom. Certainly there is no tradition of winning at the America's Cup comparable to the Americans or Australians. British sailors do however have a recent record of unparalleled success at the Olympics and, with Ellen MACARTHUR, at round-the-world sailing. The effect may be the same - they are not interested in challenging unless all of the conditions for winning are in place, and perhaps that was not the case with the potential challenge available.

It is a shame however. The America's Cup rewards experience and continuity like few other events. In fact, just two challenging teams have ever won the Cup on their first attempt, and they were not exactly rookie squads. Dennis CONNER (USA) won the America's Cup in Australia in 1987. Technically, he was a first time challenger, but of course he had plenty of experience as a Defender, including the valuable experience of being the first Defender to lose. Similarly, Team Alinghi was a new team which won in Auckland, New Zealand in 2003, but the team was composed of many winning sailors from previous editions.

In that light, American, Australian and British teams may have benefited simply from the experience of challenging here, keeping their sailors and designers in the Cup game, and building experience for the next one when the 'perfect' conditions might have been found. They may find that by the time they have the conditions for a challenge in place that they wanted, the Chinese, South Africans, and Germans, among others, have leapfrogged ahead.

The Louis Vuitton Acts 4&5 in June kick off the 2005 racing season and will mark the first time the full 2007 line-up is on the water competing. The teams added since the end of racing last year will be eager to make the right first impression, while some of the bigger teams are beginning to take their programmes to the next level. Look for some fierce action up and down the fleet with intriguing pairings at different levels on the schedule each day. Racing begins in just one month.

Event Media. Image, Teams from ten countries will be challenging Defender, Alinghi:© Th.Martinez/Alinghi Team
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