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Alinghi face America's Cup with confidence

Alinghi's skipper Brad Butterworth feels more Swiss this time around Keystone

Switzerland's defending America's Cup yachting team have taken time out of the water for a week of teambuilding exercises in eastern Switzerland.

This content was published on March 11, 2006 - 18:57

Visiting the Alinghi winter training camp in Lenzerheide, swissinfo found the team confident they can repeat their stunning success of 2003 and retain the trophy next year.

Skipper Brad Butterworth said Alinghi was on track to keep the trophy in Switzerland, following several successes against rivals last year.

"Last year we were pretty dominant in the regattas so it will be good this year to see if we can stay one step ahead," he told swissinfo.

"We won the America's Cup pretty convincingly last time around [beating Team New Zealand 5-0], but we will be happy to win by a metre in the last race next year."

Butterworth admitted the pressure will be more intense as defending champions. The New Zealander won the race twice for his native country before steering the Swiss team to success three years ago.

"I've been a defender once and you work hard for that moment, but when you tow out for the first time [the start of the first race] there are not that many people who want to be on board," he told swissinfo.

"There is no pressure up until that moment, but suddenly you have more pressure than the challenger. You don't know what is going to happen and everyone is afraid."

From Spain to Switzerland

Alinghi have spent the past week in the mountains of Lenzerheide. The programme of skiing, snowboarding, snowshoe hiking and climbing helped the team members relax together away from the normal rigours in Spain.

It was also an opportunity to spend time in the country they will be racing for.

Butterworth has been living in Switzerland for the past five years and feels more at home flying under the Swiss flag than he did in 2003.

"Winning for New Zealand was a special moment for me, but times change. The first time I raced for Alinghi it was as a professional yachtsman, but this time it will be like sailing for my adoptive country," he said.

Alinghi launch their new boat in May and Swiss-born trimmer Nils Frei, who was part of the triumphant 2003 team, cannot wait to put it through its paces.

Switzerland's America's Cup success not only lifted Swiss national pride, but also gave the sport a massive boost in the country, according to Frei.

"We never imagined how closely people would follow yachting, as it is not a famous sport in Switzerland," Frei told swissinfo. "It was incredible to see how people reacted when we won, which made it an even higher honour for me.

"There has been a big change in Switzerland after Alinghi's success. A lot more people want to learn sailing and young people are really motivated to achieve something important."

swissinfo, Matthew Allen in Lenzerheide

In brief

The America's Cup is the oldest and most prestigious trophy in the world of sailing.

Switzerland's win against New Zealand in 2003 brought the trophy back to Europe for the first time since 1851. It was the first time a team won the competition on its first attempt.

The first race, held in England in 1851, was won by the yacht "America" from the New York Yacht Club, whose boats remained unbeaten for 132 years (until 1983).

The next competition is due to be held in 2007 in Valencia, Spain.

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Key facts

107 people make up the Alinghi team in Valencia.
The team comprises 19 nationalities including 26 New Zealanders.
There are 17 Swiss, of whom only five are in the crew which sails the boat.
The team is headed by president, Ernesto Bertarelli, a Swiss billionaire businessman.

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