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3 May 2005, 09:45 am
America's Cup Teams To Battle In Italy
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Toscana Elba Cup 2005
Porto Azzurro, Elba Island, Italy

Racing in the ISAF Grade 1 Toscana Elba Cup begins tomorrow with this year's competition looking like a mini America's Cup. Ten of the twelve syndicates are entering teams along with Peter GILMOUR's (AUS) Pizza-La Sailing Team and last year's winning skipper, Russell COUTTS (NZL), sailing with his own team.
Competition at the regatta at Porto Azzuro, Elba Island, Italy is scheduled for the 4-8 May with free trials and boat tuning taking place today. The only America's Cup syndicates without teams in Italy are the two most recent editions to the lineup, United Internet Germany and China Team. America's Cup Defender Alinghi (SUI), whose team won here last year when they were skippered by COUTTS, has two teams in the competition. One is lead by the US Virgin Island's Peter HOLMBERG, whilst the other sees ISAF World Match Race Rankings' number one, Ed BAIRD (USA) at the helm. BAIRD is joined by three more of the Ranking's top five with number two, GILMOUR; number three, James SPITHILL (AUS) with Luna Rossa Challenge (ITA) and; number five, Karol JABLONSKI (POL) with Desafío Español (ESP).

All three of Italy's America's Cup teams will be in Elba, with Luna Rossa Challenge entering two teams. It will be an important race for the Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia Team (ITA). Their helmsman will be Hamish PEPPER (NZL) and by his side as tactician is the 36 year old Vasco VASCOTTO (ITA), who will be keen for success on his home waters.

Speaking on the preparatory value of the Elba Cup for the upcoming Louis Vuitton Acts, VASCOTTO said, 'It's certainly a regatta which has great technical value, and an excellent approaching stage for the America's Cup. It is very important for a team like us that is still growing and it gives us the first opportunity to challenge against some of the best teams in the America's Cup'.

Although the Italian recognizes competing in such events does take time away from preparing the America's Cup boats, he believes the benefit to the team is worth it, 'in effect we will loose some valuable time on testing our two America's Cup boats. But we also need to be ready as a team, to be able to go fast with the boats that we will have in Valencia, even if it means to race head to head, it's a challenge by all means helpful to our team and will really put us to the test… We believe that every race is a great opportunity to make steps ahead. Our principal goal right now is to start closing the gap that the other teams have ahead of us in as little time possible.'

Speaking of his return to match racing competitions said, 'It's an important moment for me. In my career I have had many satisfactory results which have helped me to get where I am today. It is for this that I will keep doing my best in continuing to achieve results, there is a very unique emotion that goes through me when I am on the course, but you will have to ask me about it after the first race...'

Paola Stropeni (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Action from last year's final between GILMOUR and COUTTS:© Event Media
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