BMW ORACLE Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand are amongst seven confirmed entries for the newly launched Louis Vuitton Pacific Series, a match racing regatta to be sailed in Auckland, New Zealand, in February next year.
Louis Vuitton confirmed on Wednesday 23 teams had expressing interest in competing, including seven teams who have already registered and paid the entry fee.
Among the seven confirmed entries are five former Louis Vuitton Cup competitors: host Emirates Team New Zealand, BMW ORACLE Racing (USA), K-Challenge (FRA), Mascalzone Latino (ITA), and Shosholoza (RSA). An Italian team and one other team have also officially entered but will announce their participation at a later date. With eight berths available in the regatta, the entries are almost closed only one week after announcing the new event.
The regatta, known as the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series, is scheduled for 1-14 February 2009. All participating teams will compete aboard two Emirates Team New Zealand yachts, set up to be similar in performance with some configuration changes will be made to ensure a level playing field. All the sailing teams that participated in previous Louis Vuitton Cup regattas were invited to compete in the regatta.
Yves CARCELLE, President of Louis Vuitton, explains the basis of the regatta, "The Auckland event is neither competing with the America's Cup, nor is it part of the next edition of the America's Cup. The Louis Vuitton Cup, awarded to the top challenging syndicate since 1983, will not be at stake during the event. A Louis Vuitton trophy will be created especially for this regatta."
Louis Vuitton had had a long standing association with the America's Cup in the form of the Louis Vuitton Cup. The Louis Vuitton Cup was first awarded in 1983 to the winner of the selection series to decide the challenger for that year's America' Cup. Since then, the Cup has continued to be used as the challenger selection series (except in 1988) and four of the six winners have gone on to win the America's Cup itself (Australia II in 1983, Stars and Stripes in 1987, Team New Zealand in 1995 and Alinghi in 2003). However following the 32nd America's Cup in 2007, Louis Vuitton ended their sponsorship activities associated with the America's Cup, citing concerns with the protocol initially drawn up for the 33rd Cup and the increasingly commercial nature of the event.
The entry limit was set at six to eight and it appears initial interest from teams, who are still waiting upon the outcome of as long running court case to decide the future of the 33rd America's Cup and any possible challenger series, has been high. "We are delighted to see such strong interest from the teams for this friendly event,"
"With such a positive response, we are working on creative ideas to bring more teams to Auckland,"
said Louis Vuitton's Director Christine BELANGER.
"Exactly 25 years ago on September 26, 1983, the yacht Australia II put an end to 132 years of American domination over the oldest trophy in sport, after winning the first-ever Louis Vuitton Cup,"
said Bruno TROUBLÉ, founder of the Louis Vuitton Cup. "We are proud on the occasion of this anniversary to work on a new event which will bring the teams back on the water.
"Russell COUTTS, the skipper of BMW ORACLE confirmed to me today that he will come home to New Zealand to skipper his team's yacht in the regatta."
The Louis Vuitton Pacific Series is being held in association with the New Zealand Government, Emirates Team New Zealand, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS), Auckland City, and Sky City Entertainment Group.
Three daily match races are planned on a two-mile windward-leeward course laid at the entrance to Auckland's Waitemata Harbour, between Rangitoto Island and the city foreshore. There will be a daily draw to decide which yacht competing teams will sail that day.