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11 November 2005, 03:08 am
An Olympian Effort
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America's Cup 2007

The Italian +39 Challenge, the first squad to join BMW ORACLE Racing (USA) as official challengers for the 32nd America's Cup can look back on the 2005 season as the year this new team proved it can compete at the Cup. The team struggled in the 2004 Louis Vuitton Acts; its performance was clearly that of a rookie squad fighting just to get the boat around the race course. But in 2005, +39 showed it has improved to the point that it can win races.
The question that remains unanswered is how much better can Luca DEVOTI's team of Olympians become at the America's Cup game?

'We didn't throw together this crew by just drawing names,' said DEVOTI, the team leader and initiator of the project. 'There was a logic behind it. Each of the top Olympic Finn sailors who have moved across to match racing have advanced up the rankings very quickly and we expected that from [skipper] Iain PERCY [(GBR)]. He's one of the best to ever sail the Finn and now, one year after beginning this, he's getting pretty good on the Cup boats. It's what we expected. Last year we had five days of training before racing and now, we're fifth in the challenger series. It's pretty remarkable really.'

Giant killers

The +39 Challenge showed steady improvement over the year, with the highlight race being a victory over Emirates Team New Zealand in Malmö-Skåne, Sweden. The win was the all more impressive as +39 is racing with the oldest boat in the fleet.

'The luck is going our way at the moment,' said an ecstatic PERCY at the time. 'It does a lot for the whole team, they were over the moon, and all the guys were cheering when we came in. That's the motivation you need until you get into a faster boat.'

During the match racing in the Malmö-Skåne Louis Vuitton Acts PERCY's squad racked up a season high six wins in eleven starts after earning four points in Valencia, Spain in June. Unfortunately, that impressive record in Sweden fell back to four wins again to close the season in Trapani, Italy.

'We cost ourselves a respectable regatta by putting two spinnakers not just over the side, but right under the boat and around the keel. It's a shame,' PERCY reflected in Italy. 'It puts us in our 'home' town with a result that I don't think really reflects where we are as a team. That's life, but it's disappointing. The top teams don't make those mistakes.

'Boathandling was one of our strengths coming into this regatta. That's why I'm disappointed about it. We threw away two matches in the match racing and five places in the fleet race today. The only good thing about boathandling is it's the easiest thing to fix. I think we need to be more disciplined about recovery plans. We can't just go with the 'We'll deal with it when it happens' technique.'

Winter in Valencia

To that point, the team knows the only way to keep improving is to keep working hard. On a team filled with Olympic sailors, hard graft is not something PERCY's men fear. After taking a couple of weeks off following the Trapani Louis Vuitton Acts, the team has re-assembled in Valencia and started to work again.

'We're back to Valencia and we'll be training through the winter,' PERCY said before leaving Trapani. 'The conditions aren't perfect over the winter, but every day we get is a day where we can jump forward on the some of the better teams. They, probably rightly, think they need the break more than the practice. But for us, we need the practice more than the break, so we'll take any good day sailing that we can.'

'We'll do exactly the same as for Olympic training,' DEVOTI agreed. 'No more than 15 or 20 days off and then straight back on the water. It's easy to work hard when you have guys of this quality. I'm confident we'll change the name of the game here, and that's what we're trying to do. We'll sail in Valencia from November to February. We'll launch our new boat in Sicily in March and do all the initial testing there and then take it back to Valencia and prepare for the Acts. We are not going to hold back and I'm sure we'll be with the best teams next year.'

Fighting words from a team that showed in 2005 that it is not to be counted out.

+39 Challenge: Match Races in 2005

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.

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+39 Challenge: Fleet Races in 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.

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For a complete list of all the news about the America's Cup 2007 CLICK HERE.
ACM 2005. Image, +39 Challenge:© Francesco Ferri/ACM 2005
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