On the positive side of the ledger, Victory Challenge, a continuation of the 2002-2003 America's Cup team, burst out of the gates in the first regatta of 2005, the Valencia Louis Vuitton Acts in Spain. The team won six matches, including a showdown with the hometown Desafío Español team for fifth place on the points table. HOLMBERG led his team to victory in that decisive match despite picking up a pre-start penalty. It was an incredible achievement for a team that had only assembled over the previous month.
Victory Challenge followed that up with an even more impressive display in the fleet races, vaulting out to the lead after two days, including a race win in the fourth contest. But a technical measurement violation would see the team disqualified from the race it had won and drop them to sixth overall. Had they not been disqualified, they would have won the regatta.
'I'm proud of having sailed better than everyone else,' said HOLMBERG at the time. 'We've had good speed, good tactics, good manoeuvres and good starts and that's the main thing for us. It's difficult not to be disheartened by the Jury decision, but winning on the water under such pressure shows what a strong team and what a good boat we have.'
Leaving Valencia, Victory Challenge had every reason in the world to be excited looking ahead to the Malmö-Skåne Louis Vuitton Acts. The team would be sailing on home waters - the first time America's Cup racing would take place in Sweden - and this Swedish challenge was a team showing great potential.
After showing such success in Valencia with SWE 63, the team decided to make a change to SWE 73, feeling that it was better suited to the conditions in Sweden. It would prove to be a poor choice as Victory Challenge struggled to find the form it had in Valencia. The team won just four matches; the fleet racing did not provide any salvation…Victory Challenge limped to an eleventh place finish.
For skipper HOLMBERG, the Malmö-Skåne Louis Vuitton Acts were tough for the team on the water, but it was nonetheless exciting to have America's Cup sailing in Sweden.
'Even if I'm disappointed in our results I'm extremely satisfied with the races in Malmö. They've been absolutely fantastic. The support that we've had on the water, even when it's gone badly for us, has been enormous fun. For us and our future it's meant a lot that these races have taken place in Sweden. It's really the first time that we've sailed at home since we started Victory Challenge.'
The team made the decision to switch back to SWE 63 for Trapani, Italy, where the team suffered a blow before racing even started when it broke its mast ashore in an accident when launching the boat. Despite this, they finished the season with a better result, but still could not reach the highs they displayed in Valencia. Victory Challenge claimed a sixth place finish from six race wins in the match racing and managed an eighth place finish in the fleet races.
Through all the drama, veteran skipper HOLMBERG kept his team calm, cool and collected, and focussed on winning races.
'It's been a tremendous effort,' HOLMBERG said at the conclusion of the Trapani Acts. 'We've only been going for six months and we're a small team, so it's been pretty hard this summer. Considering all of that, I think the team has done extremely well - probably better than we expected to be honest. We thought we'd have to just make it through this season, but in reality, we've achieved a lot. It's been encouraging.
'We should be pretty pleased with finishing as the fifth challenger on the season championship [sixth overall and sixth on Louis Vuitton Ranking] considering the short preparation we have had since challenging and the quick fix on the modification of the boat.
'Next year, each team's design team will be showing what it can do. Right now, a lot of the teams have bought existing boats but it'll be a different game in the future when people are starting to sail their own ideas. I have a really good trust in our design team with Mani FRERS and his group. It's a huge step for all of the teams and I think we're prepared well for it.'
The team returned from Trapani with the intention of training in Valencia in the months leading up to Christmas when it suffered another enormous blow, losing one of its most popular team members, sailmaker Gerry MOOSBRUGGER, who died following a motorcycle accident at the beginning of November. This terrible accident is another massive hurdle that the team must now overcome.
Approaching the Christmas break next month, Victory Challenge is currently hard at work in Valencia. The sailing team is training until the end of November, and the management is also working hard off the water to secure the funding it needs to fulfill the potential this campaign demonstrated throughout the year. The design process if moving forward and the team is hoping to begin building a new boat at some point in the spring.
Despite the difficulties it has had to navigate in 2005, Victory Challenge has shown itself capable of beating some of the best teams sailing in this 32nd America's Cup. If the team secures the budget it requires and avoids any more bad luck, Victory Challenge could prove difficult to beat. Certainly this is a mentally strong team which demonstrates an iron will forged through the troubled times it faced this year. In 2007, the team might look back at the challenges it faced in 2005 as being the events that made Victory Challenge the team that it is.
The following table shows all race results from the three Match Racing Acts of the 2005 season: Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 4, Malmö-Skåne Louis Vuitton Act 6 and Trapani Louis Vuitton Act 8. The right column shows the total amount of points gained against each team throughout the year. The bottom row shows the total amount of races won per Louis Vuitton Act.
|© ACM 2005|
The following table lists all finishes during the three Fleet Racing Acts of the 2005 season: Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 5, Malmö-Skåne Louis Vuitton Act 7 and Trapani Louis Vuitton Act 9. The curve of the results charts the progress of the team over the year.
|© ACM 2005|