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6 September 2005, 04:54 pm
Alinghi Continues To Dominate As The Spanish And American Teams Move Up
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America's Cup 2007
Malmö, Sweden

On the water, the Swiss Defender continued to dominate the fleet, winning Louis Vuitton Act 7. Alinghi ended the fleet racing series with an identical record to BMW ORACLE Racing (USA), but won the tie break by virtue of winning the last race. It's the third of four Louis Louis Vuitton Acts won by the Defender in 2005, (and four of the last five overall) as the Swiss continue to show impressive form early in their defence campaign.
The Malmö-Skåne Louis Vuitton Acts were a spectacular success both ashore and on the water. The racing was close, unpredictable, and took place in a full range of conditions from light winds where the teams raced against the clock to finish in time, to heavy-load days where men and machine were pushed to the limit.

On shore, the America's Cup Park was the heart of the public area of the Acts. Over 110,000 people visited the Park over the course of the event, enjoying a full range of activities from games and simulations to coffee bars and big screen television with live commentary of the racing. Spectator boats on the water provided an up close view of the racing, and were enjoyed by many, particularly on the weekends. On the final sunny Saturday, over 25,000 people came to the America's Cup Park to take in the action on the water (via the big screen), followed by a pop concert and fireworks in the evening. All in all, the America's Cup enjoyed its first visit to Sweden, which provided a warm welcome, close racing, and inspired sailing fans.

On the water, Alinghi remained out in front of their challengers. 'We have a lot of experience in our group now and we're not making that many mistakes and that's the game,' said tactician Brad BUTTERWORTH (NZL). 'You have to eliminate mistakes.'

Alinghi could have been even more dominant in this regatta had it made the finish line before the time expired in the first attempt at running the second race. Earlier that afternoon BMW ORACLE Racing won the first race by squeezing across the finish line just seconds before the 40 minute leg limit expired. In the second start that afternoon it was Alinghi who was in a slow motion sprint to beat the clock. The race was abandoned when the time limit expired with the Swiss just 200 metres from the line. A race win then would have seen Alinghi with an even more impressive record.

Apart from BMW ORACLE (who excelled despite the resignation of tactician Gavin BRADY (NZL) midway through Act 6) and Alinghi, two other teams stood out in Act 7 - the French K-Challenge, which won its first fleet race of the 32nd America's Cup on Saturday, and Desafío Español, who finished in the top half of the fleet in each race, en route to a fifth place finish. (The Spanish were equal fourth on points with Emirates Team New Zealand but fell a place on the tie-break). The strong Spanish showing, coupled with a poor performance by Victory Challenge (SWE) vaults the Desafío squad to fifth place overall.

For K-Challenge, skipper Thierry PEPONNET (FRA) called the win a 'face-saving' victory. The French team has not performed as well in the 2005 Louis Vuitton Acts as it had hoped to, and is eager to show that it can compete at this level. It won the race with a good start, smart tactics upwind and downwind, and by showing enough speed to hold off a hard charging fleet. It was a good win, and boosted the team to a sixth place finish, which shoots it up the annual rankings to sixth place as well.

Another fast improving team is the Italian +39 Challenge, which sailed better in the fleet races than the results would indicate. It led or was near the lead for much of the first race, before falling off the back of the fleet during a final run in very fluky conditions. Regardless, after earning two ninth place finishes in Valencia, Sapin, a sixth and an eighth in the two Malmö regattas is another sign that this team is moving in the right direction.

Perhaps the team most disappointed with the Malmö-Skåne Louis Vuitton Acts is the home team, Victory Challenge. After a very impressive debut in Valencia, hopes were high for the Swedish team. But in Malmö, sailing SWE-73 instead of SWE-63, the team floundered, finishing the fleet racing in eleventh spot, after struggling to an eighth in Act 6. Victory Challenge acknowledges that changing boats was a mistake. It has decided to ship SWE-63 to the next Acts in Trapani, Italy in hope of achieving a better result.

'That we're now choosing Örn [SWE-63] for Trapani is because we're not happy with Orm's speed on the water during the races in Malmö,' said skipper Magnus HOLMBERG (SWE). 'At the same time using Orm [SWE-73] has been necessary for the long-term development of Victory Challenge. If we hadn't used Orm we would never have got the answers we now have that are also important in the building of the two new boats ahead of the Louis Vuitton Cup 2007.'

In contrast, a team more pleased with its performance was Shosholoza (RSA). The South Africans are beginning to be more competitive with the fleet and finished Act 7 with two teams behind it on the points table, and just one point away from a ninth place finish.

China Team, United Internet Team Germany, Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia (ITA), Luna Rossa (ITA) and Emirates Team New Zealand each consolidated their positions in Malmö, with finishes in line with their previous results.

The final word on the Malmö-Skåne Louis Vuitton Acts goes to the skipper of Victory Challenge, HOLMBERG, who describes the Acts as a great success, despite personal dissatisfaction.

'Even if I'm disappointed in our results I'm extremely satisfied with the races in Malmö. They've been absolutely fantastic. What Malmö has achieved is unbelievable. The support that we've had out on the water, even when it's gone badly for us in the races, 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.'

With the conclusion of racing in Sweden, the race is now on to move the America's Cup roadshow to Sicily for the Trapani Louis Vuitton Acts. Racing begins in just over three weeks, on 29 September. The M/V Schippersgracht will be used again to transport the 32nd America's Cup fleet to Trapani, with the ship scheduled to depart from Malmö on Thursday, arriving in Trapani on 15 September.

Peter Rusch. Image, The Alinghi team at the Act 7 prize giving:© Carlo Borlenghi/ACM 2005
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