Alinghi lifts its skirt to reveal all
Swiss syndicate Alinghi, the holder of sailing's America's Cup, and the 11 challengers have unveiled their racing secrets – their hulls and keels – to the public.
However, the boats at the much-anticipated ceremony in Valencia, Spain were notable for their similarity and a general lack of innovations.
It was in stark contrast to previous competitions, such as in 1983 when Australia II's winged keel had many observers scratching their heads.
Teams were allowed up until now to shield their keels from prying eyes beneath sheets of plastic, jealously guarding their secrets which they hope will give them a competitive edge.
"There are quite a few different concepts, but nothing really revolutionary," commented Alinghi's principal designer, Rolf Vrolijk. "I haven't seen anything that we should be afraid of."
Alinghi's chief engineer, Dirk Kramers, described Alinghi's main changes as "the interaction between disciplines such as aerodynamics, hydrodynamics and structures".
"The big development has been gaining the understanding of how all the different disciplines interact and figuring out which different combinations work best. The design game is so complex you can never really achieve perfection."
"We are extremely proud to display SUI91 and SUI100 [the two new Alinghi yachts] today. They represent the product of three years of research, development and testing by our designers, sailors and shore crew," said Grant Simmer, Alinghi's managing director and design coordinator.
"We are confident they are capable of retaining the cup for Alinghi."
A total of 19 yachts belonging to the 12 teams took part in Sunday's ritual. Using the most advanced computer technology in the world, the teams have spent four years, and some over SFr230 million, creating the 25-metre yachts, which weigh up to 2.5 tons and race at speeds of up to 15 knots.
The similarity between boats should encourage "very close races", according to Ian Burns, designer with BMW Oracle.
Fabrice Levet, the French coach with the Areva team added that: "there wouldn't be a difference in speed [between the boats] to allow them to make up for starting errors".
On Tuesday, the crews fighting for the right to challenge Alinghi for the America's Cup will sail out of the port in Valencia, together with the defending champion, for the last set of fleet races before the challengers head into the Louis Vuitton Cup head-to-heads. The Alinghi team will train alone for the finals.
It marks the beginning of a three-month regatta culminating in the America's Cup between June 23 to July 7. All in all, the races are expected to attract five million spectators.
Most yachting enthusiasts expect Alinghi to race one of the three teams which were way ahead of the pack at the end of last season – Emirates Team New Zealand, BMW Oracle and Luna Rossa Challenge.
Teams with two boats:
Alinghi SUI 100 SUI 91
BMW ORACLE Racing USA 98, USA 87
Luna Rossa Challenge ITA 94, ITA 86
Emirates Team New Zealand NZL 92, NZL 84
Desafío Español 2007 ESP 97, ESP 88
Victory Challenge SWE 96, SWE 73
Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team ITA 99, ITA 90
Teams with only one boat:
+39 Challenge ITA 85
Team Shosholoza RSA 83
Areva Challenge FRA 93
United Internet Team Germany GER 89
China Team CHN 95
The America's Cup is the oldest and most prestigious trophy in the sailing world.
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 syndicate won the competition on its first attempt.
The first race, held in England in 1851, was won by the New York Yacht Club's representative "America". The club's yachts remained undefeated for 132 years (until 1983).
The 32nd America's Cup will take place between June 23 and July 7, 2007 in Valencia, Spain between the current holder, Alinghi, and the winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup, which will take place from April 16 to June 12, 2007.
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