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7 February 2003, 12:18 pm
No Hula For Alinghi
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© Carlo Borlenghi

America's Cup
Viaduct Basin, Auckland

The term 'hula' has a decidedly South Pacific ring to it, conjuring up images of tropical beaches with big surf breaking on shore. It's a decidedly hard image to relate to the Swiss Alps.
As such, perhaps it's appropriate that only Team New Zealand is likely to be sporting the 'hula' appendage come unveiling day on 11 February.

Although it is thought Alinghi was testing a Team New Zealand style hull appendage in advance of the America's Cup, Swiss strategist Jochen Schuemann says they won't be using it during racing.

"We obviously did that much earlier and didn't use it and we're still not using it," Schuemann said about the 'hula'. "There will be no big surprises at the unveiling day - maybe that will be the surprise."

Tactician Brad Butterworth didn't talk about the 'hula' specifically, but confirmed the focus for the team since winning the Louis Vuitton Cup has been on minor refinements, not radical changes.

"We're just working hard on all the little bits that we can do; sails and boat maintenance and crew work, so that when we hit the line we give it our best shot," Butterworth said. "When you look at how long it takes to get everything perfect or near perfect in this game, a couple of weeks between regattas doesn't give you a hell of a lot of time to change much. (We're) just trying to focus on Team New Zealand and see where our boat sits with their boat and how our sailing style fits with theirs. It's hard to work out when you haven't sailed against them for over three years."

The 'hula' appendage is an attempt by Team New Zealand to build a faster boat by exploiting the America's Cup Class Rule. The Kiwis hope to realise a significant speed advantage from it, although whether they have or not won't be known until the first race.

"I don't expect that one boat will be so much faster that one is just leading and the other following," Schuemann said. "I think it will be an exciting and close event and the better team will win, but it won't be 5 - 0."

According to Schuemann, the team has been trying to spend as much time as possible on the water; testing, practicing, and perfecting its crew work. And he says that's not going to change over the final week in advance of Race One on February 15th.

"We plan to do a lot of sailing. We plan to use every sailing hour that we can, that's why we were out yesterday (Wednesday) until 7:00 pm, sailing in good sea breeze conditions. Hopefully we'll see a lot of different conditions over the next week, but unfortunately it looks like its getting very light for the next few days."

Over the past week, there has been a lot of mudslinging in the New Zealand press about the manner in which in Butterworth and skipper Russell Coutts left Team New Zealand after the America's Cup in 2000. Butterworth says the fact that he and some of the others on Alinghi are facing their former team in the Cup Match just adds another layer to the story.

"If you'd asked me four years ago whether I'd be standing here I'd have said you're crazy," he said referring to the prospect of sailing against Team New Zealand. "But it's panned out that way. And I think everybody wanted it that way. It's going to give it a bit of excitement. And I think the best team will win - at the end of the day the best team, the best programme will win the regatta."

Peter Rusch/ISAF News Editor
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