The Louis Vuitton Trophy Nice Côte d'Azur is scheduled to begin today with four matches featuring all eight teams planned on the Baie de Anges, or Bay of Angels, off Nice.
Match one pits England's TeamOrigin versus start-up Russia Synergy with the warning signal scheduled for 09:00.
TeamOrigin features four-time Olympic medallist Ben Ainslie
(GBR) as skipper and helmsman and two-time medallist Iain Percy
(GBR) as tactician. The team is loaded with experience and placed fifth at the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series last February in New Zealand.
"We started well at that event but had our issues at the end," said Ainslie. "The format here is different from in New Zealand since the home team doesn't advance to the final, so every race counts. We'll have to be wide awake tomorrow morning."
Synergy is a new team from a country, Russia, not known for its expertise in professional sailing. But the team has valued experience on the helm in Karol Jablonski
of Poland and tactician Rod Dawson
of New Zealand.
Jablonski led Spain's Desafio Español to a third-place finish at the 2007 Louis Vuitton Cup while Dawson has won a plethora of match race regattas. Still, Synergy has its work cut out in its first appearance in America's Cup sloops.
"It will be a great day for everyone. It's the first time Russia sails such a boat," said Synergy general manager Maxim Logutenko
. "We don't think about the results tomorrow. It's sport and we'll try to beat them, but we don't worry about the results. It's a big day for Russia sailing."
Synergy got a break at tonight's draw for boats when it selected GBR-75 over FRA-93. GBR-75 was the preferred yacht for every team that got to choose. TeamOrigin, however, will enter the start box on the favoured starboard tack.
The wind tomorrow is expected to blow up to 15 knots in the morning before increasing to 25 knots or more in the afternoon. That might put an early halt to racing as the organisers are concerned with the sea state and the damage the AC sloops could incur from shock loading.
Other races scheduled tomorrow pit Emirates Team New Zealand against TFS - Pages Jaunes in match two and ALL4ONE against Artemis in match four.
Match three features BMW ORACLE Racing of the U.S. against Azzurra of Italy. BMW Oracle Racing is a founding member of the WSTA and a well-known brand in professional racing.
The Azzurra team enjoyed prominence in 1983 when it was the first Italian syndicate to compete in the Louis Vuitton Cup. Now it has a new skipper and helmsman in Francesco Bruni
(ITA), the 27th ranked match-racer on the ISAF Open Match Race Rankings list issued 28 October 2009. Bruni has the unenviable task of taking on the mighty BMW Oracle team.
"We have a double responsibility: to carry the Azzurra name and to take the fight to BMW Oracle," said Bruni, from Palermo, Sicily. "We are very calm about our match tomorrow. We feel our training has gone well and we are comfortable with the manoeuvres. We feel we can face anyone and are happy to take on BMW Oracle."
Azzurra will race GBR-75 while BMW Oracle, which will be helmed by Gavin Brady of New Zealand, will enter the start box at the starboard end.
The event schedule was thrown into flux this morning when ITA-99, one of two sloops on loan from Italy's Mascalzone Latino team, was damaged during practice on the Bay of Angels.
"It's an unfortunate situation, but these crews always push at the highest limits," said Bruno Troublé, spokesperson for the WSTA. "Even in practice, they're always trying to gain an edge. We're confident that the boat can be repaired and will return to racing soon."
The combined French/German team ALL4ONE was sailing ITA-99 when it clipped the transom of the race committee boat. The mishap put a two-meter cut in the starboard side of the hull.
Twenty members of the Mascalzone shore team are on site and some have been working on the repair all day. The yacht could return to action as soon as Monday.
"It's a practise accident, which is not good, we're trying to make every effort to fix it," said Jochen Schuemann
(GER), ALL4ONE skipper. "There is a cut on the outer skin. It is a big cut but should be possible to fix."