A strong line-up of America's Cup skippers and celebrities from the worlds of sport and film will be taking part in the 2002 Laureus Regatta in Monte Carlo on May 13 and 14.
The match-racing regatta, which is sanctioned by the International Sailing Federation and organised by the yacht Club de Monaco from Le Meridien Beach Plaza, is one of several high-class events leading up to the third annual Laureus World Sports Awards ceremony on the evening of May 14.
The regatta is also being held as a tribute to New Zealander Sir Peter Blake, one of yachting's genuine legends and a Laureus World Sports Academy member who was tragically murdered by pirates while on an environmental expedition in the Amazon last year.
Racing will be held in carefully matched yachts from Nautor's Swan range with the two qualifying crews competing in the Laureus 'Sport for Good' Final scheduled in two 80 footers. The grand final will also see celebrity and Laureus hosts taking part in the action.
Each skipper in Monaco will receive a specially crafted limited edition Officine Panerai watch while the winner will take home a sparkling new Mercedes CLK 240.
Last year, "JJ" Isler of the United States, silver medallist at the Sydney Olympics in the women's 470 class, beat Ben Ainslie, Britain's gold medallist at the same Games in Laser class, in a thrilling match held close to Monte Carlo's famous harbour. "JJ" returns this year to defend her title while Ainslie is back for a second shot, still smarting from his defeat last year.
Other protagonists from last year who will be back to race include Tommaso Chieffi, who is currently with Larry Ellison's Oracle Challenge for the America's Cup, and his fellow Italian Francesco Bruni, a member of the Prada Challenge.
Dawn Riley, skipper of the all-women Cup challenger Mighty Mary in 1995 and America True in 2000, will be a newcomer to the event. Riley will be part of the French K-Challenge for the Cup in 2006. Olympic gold medallist Thierry Peponnet, who is aiming to steer the French K-Challenge boat in 2006, will also compete in Monaco.
GBR Challenge skipper Ian Walker will also be racing because there is a natural break in his team's training schedule with the newly-launched Wight Lightning on her way to Auckland.
That will also allow Walker's team members Jim Turner and Jonathan Taylor to be Laureus boat hosts for the regatta. They will be joined by 1964 Olympic silver medallist Keith Musto and Graham Walker, who was chairman of the British America's Cup challenge in 1986-87.
Jamie Boag is another boat host, although it has not yet been decided if he will be allowed on the same vessel as his competitor wife Shirley Robertson. Shirley, who won the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics for the single-handed Europe class, has collected bigger boat experience aboard the Swan 48 Jacobite and will be competing as one of the eight match race skippers this year.