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2 February 2007, 10:06 am
HOLMBERG Leads BAIRD In Defender Trials
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America's Cup 2007

Peter HOLMBERG (ISV) leads Ed BAIRD (USA) 3-1 after the second day of the UBS Dubai Defender Trials in UAE. Cup Defender Alinghi are using the Defender Series to prepare for the America's Cup Match in June and select their afterguard and crew for Valencia.
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Ernesto BERTARELLI (SUI), team syndicate head explained, 'As the Defender, we will not have the benefit of the Louis Vuitton Cup to raise our skills to the level that the challengers will by racing each other. We must raise our skills to the highest possible level within our own team and intend to use this Defender Series which, I can tell you, is going to be extremely competitive. We really want to ensure that ultimately we have the very best team out on the water in June. We will have two Defender Series, with Round 1 and 2 here in Dubai and then after the LV Act 13 we will have a second series in Valencia.'

Seeking The Best Combinations

Brad BUTTERWORTH (NZL), team skipper and tactician added, 'We have a sailing team of 36 sailors and each man wants to be on the boat in June. We rotate our team and we are looking for the best combinations in the afterguard, but also among the trimmers, the bowman, the pitmen and the grinders. They all have a way of communicating and we try to get the best out of them and put the best 17 together so that we wind up with a formidable crew to defend the Cup.

'Obviously there is a lot of emphasis on how the boats are steered. Peter HOLMBERG and Ed BAIRD are some of the best helmsmen in the world and there are really only six guys in the world who can sail these boats at this level. So Alinghi is quite spoilt for choice. It will be a tough decision to decide who will sail the boat, but that's a good thing for us as our in-house racing is really close and of a high standard and I'm hoping that we'll get to the Cup and win it with a team where any one of the guys could be on the boat and achieve that goal.'

Racing got away this afternoon in Dubai in very similar conditions to Valencia, Spain, ranging between 9-15 knots. Race 3 saw SUI64 over the line at the start with BAIRD at the helm and although SUI64 clawed SUI91 back to within three boat lengths, HOLMBERG on SUI91 crossed the finish 43 seconds ahead.

BAIRD Fights Back

Race 4 provided the excitement of the day, with the boats coming off the line in a split tack start, SUI91 led around the top mark only to be passed by SUI64 on the downwind leg.

BAIRD commented, 'We got the start we wanted, rounded the mark about two lengths behind and waited until we could take our chance, we got clear and had a good fight down the final run to finish ahead.' BAIRD and the crew of SUI64 held them off to cross the line 2 seconds ahead. 'It feels a lot better to be down by two than down by four,' laughed BAIRD, adding, 'The guys are doing a great job of working the boat, we're pushing the old girl just as much as we can.'

The UBS Dubai Defender Trials take place the 31 January-3 February with Round 1, followed by Round 2 from 16-19 February at the end of which the helmsman and afterguard for Louis Vuitton Act 13 will be announced.

The America's Cup Match and Challenger/Defender Series are designated as ISAF Special Events. For more information on the America's Cup, the Louis Vuttion Acts and the teams competing, visit the official America's Cup website - www.americascup.com.

For a complete list of all the news about the America's Cup 2007 CLICK HERE.
Daphne Morgan Barnicoat (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Peter HOLMBERG is up in Dubai:© Ivo Rovira/Alinghi
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