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17 January 2007, 10:15 am
Europeans Dominating
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Acura Key West 2007
Key West, Florida, USA

North America's largest regatta has experienced a full scale foreign invasion during its 20th year. Entries from Europe are leading four of the largest one-design classes at Acura Key West 2007, presented by Nautica. Meanwhile, an Asian based skipper has turned in one of the more impressive performances in the 260 boat regatta.
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Switzerland syndicate Alinghi has seized control of the ultra competitive Farr 40 class while the Italian contingent on Joe Fly holds a healthy lead in Melges 24. Italian teams are also setting the pace in the Melges 32 and Mumm 30 classes. No skipper has been hotter than Japan's Makoto UEMATSU, who has placed first or second in all four races held so far.

Tuesday brought another beautiful day of racing with the international fleet enjoying sunny skies and 80 degree temperatures. Early forecasts for light winds were unfounded as race 3 was held in a 10-12 knot breeze, which increased to 12-14 for the afternoon start.

Alinghi Tightens Grip

Alinghi strengthened its hold on first in the Farr 40 as skipper Ernesto BERTARELLI (SUI) continued his impressive string of single-digit finishes in the loaded 17 boat class. Tactician Brad BUTTERWORTH (NZL) made a crucial decision to help Alinghi win Tuesday's initial race and the Swiss team added a fifth in the second start to take a commanding 12 point lead over Opus, the German entry skippered by Wolfgang STOLZ (GER).

Alinghi, the current America's Cup holder, has shown no signs of weakness so far in compiling a low score of nine points - a tremendous total after four races. BERTARELLI, BUTTERWORTH, jib trimmer Lorenzo MAZZA (ITA), main trimmer Warwick FLEURY (NZL) and bowman Pieter VAN NIEUWENHUYZEN (NED) are the five members of the America's Cup crew here in Key West.

'We've only had two days of racing so it doesn't really mean much just yet,' BERTARELLI said. 'I don't think there is any secret to what we are doing. We have been fortunate to get good starts, stay clear of the other boats and sail in clean air.'

Alinghi benefited from hitting a wind shift en route to winning race 3. BUTTERWORTH was ahead of the curve in terms of noticing the breeze was moving to the right side of the course and quickly put the Swiss boat in position to capitalize.

'Brad saw the shift coming from a long way away. I was surprised we were the only boat to catch it,' BERTARELLI said.

Joe Fly In Control

Joe Fly continued to distance itself from the competition in Melges 24, largest class in the regatta with 47 boats. Skipper Giovanni MASPERO and the Italian team have been getting off the line in the front row and using superb boat speed to stay there.

Helmsman Gabrio ZANDONA (ITA) and tactician Daniele CASSINARI (ITA) continued to show exceptional chemistry as Joe Fly posted a first and a third on Tuesday to bring its point total to seven. Blu Moon, a Swiss boat skippered by Franco ROSSINI (SUI), is a distant second with 21 points despite having posted a pair of seconds in four races.

'In reality, the gap is not as great as it seems. All the races have been close,' ZANDONA said. 'Our starts and downwind speed is giving us a slight advantage. When you are in front from the beginning and don't make mistakes, it's tough for the competition to catch you.'

More Italian Success

Let's Roll has been equally impressive in the fledgling Melges 32 class, which has grown from eight boats in 2006 to 20 boats this year. Skipper Claudio RECCHI (ITA) and crew have gotten the gun in three of four starts and scored a mere six points after two days.

Let's Roll, which leads second place Hoss of Glenn DARDEN (USA) by ten points, was named City of Key West Boat of the Day.

'The Italians are very tough. They have great speed on all points of sail and their crew work has been exceptional,' said Marty KULLMAN (USA), co-owner of fourth place New Wave.

Another Italian team that has impressed early is Calvi Hiroshi, which leads the ten entry Mumm 30 class. Skipper Armando GUILIETTI (ITA) won both races on Monday then followed with a second on Tuesday and is three points up on Bruce EDDINGTON's (AUS) Southern Sun.

'We are very fast in these 10-15 knot conditions because that is what we tend to see during the Italian season,' GUILIETTI said.

A lack of proper training time and mechanical problems doomed Calvi Hiroshi at the Mumm 30 World Championships, but he said that the syndicate has gotten things together for this regatta.

'We have improved the boat and crew quite a bit,' said GUILIETTI, who is pointing toward the 2007 Worlds that are being held off Porto Cuervo, Italy.

There were lead changes in the all three IRC classes on Tuesday. Hissar overtook Numbers in IRC 1, Windquest moved past Magic Glove in IRC 2 while Esmeralda jumped Spirit of Malouen in IRC 3.

Esmeralda Makes Her Mark

Esmeralda, owned by Japanese industrialist UEMATSU, is hull number two of the Club Swan 42 one-design that is making its competitive debut at Acura Key West 2007. The New York Yacht Club has purchased 21 of the German FRERS design while builder Nautor Swan has sold another dozen.

Early returns are positive as Esmeralda has shown tremendous downwind speed under her huge spinnaker in winning two races and placing second in the two others. America's Cup veteran Ken READ (USA) is calling tactics for UEMATSU, who despite the terrific start only holds a one point lead over the Sinergia 40 skippered by Frenchman Stephane NEVE.

'Clearly, the boat is outliving its expectations,' said READ, a North Sails executive. 'It's a work in progress, but we're getting a good feel for how the boat performs in various conditions. In light to medium air, she goes great. We're waiting to see what will happen in 18 plus knots.'

UEMATSU, who is in the construction business in Tokyo, has owned 15 previous boats named Esmeralda. He is pleased with the latest model, which has the classic lines and comfortable interior of a typical Swan yacht.

The Acura Grand Prix Awards - presented to the combined class winners of Acura Key West and the Acura Miami Grand Prix (on 8-11 March 2007) are destined to become some of the most sought after trophies on the international racing circuit. Perpetual awards are in the offing to the Farr 40, Mumm 30, Melges 32 and IRC big boat classes.

TV and Internet Productions will bring the racing excitement right into homes and offices around the world. Acura will sponsor a special daily internet production which will be available nightly on the official event web site and ESPN.com. Additionally a special Jobson Sailing production will be aired on ESPN 2, Sunday March 11 at 1:30 PM EST. View highlights from 2006 - applecart.tv/kw_preview.

Title Sponsor Acura is the Official Vehicle. Presenting Sponsor Nautica Watches is the Official Timekeeper. Day Sponsor Mount Gay® Rum is the Official Rum. Supporting sponsors are B&G (Official Marine Electronics), Everglades Boats (Official Mark Boat), Lewmar (Official Marine Hardware), New England Ropes (Official Rope), SLAM (Official Technical Gear), and Sperry Top-Sider (Official Footwear). Supplier Spaten is the Official Beer.

Acura Key West is also supported by The Florida Keys & Key West Tourism Council. The Historic Seaport at the Key West Bight is the Official Site.

Premier Racing (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Alinghi lead in the Farr 40 fleet:© Tim Wilkes/www,timwilkes.com
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