Switzerland has been celebrating after the sailing team, Alinghi, won the America’s Cup – marking the first European win in the competition’s 152-year-old history.This content was published on March 2, 2003 - 15:07
The Swiss president, Pascal Couchepin, called the win a historic victory.
Alinghi, bankrolled by biotech billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli, easily defeated defenders Team New Zealand, 5-0.
In the fifth race of the best-of-nine series, the Alinghi team led by the New Zealand skipper Russell Coutts, swept past the two-time defending champions, winning by 45 seconds.
After crossing the finishing line, the ecstatic crew embraced each other and sprayed champagne.
“I never dreamed this was possible,” said Bertarelli. “I dreamed of participating in the America's Cup, but never of winning it.”
“Today, Alinghi's fate has surpassed all my expectations. In 152 years, no single challenger has brought the cup back to Europe, and it's Switzerland who has rewritten the history books. It's extraordinary,” he added.
Bertarelli, who was also Alinghi’s navigator, has always compared the challenge of the America’s Cup to scaling the 4,478 metres high Matterhorn.
And a few minutes after the win, the Swiss team hoisted a flag that showed the America's Cup sitting on the top of the Matterhorn.
Thousands of people joined in the party atmosphere as Auckland celebrated Alinghi's win into the night.
"It's a unique atmosphere for an even more unique win," said Alinghi coach Pierre-Yves Jorand.
"To see all these people come and join in our happiness, it's simply fantastic," commented the Genevan.
Joy at home
More than 600 people gathered in Geneva’s Yacht Club to watch the race.
There was a party atmosphere when Alinghi crossed the line in first place, with people hugging each other and drinking champagne, said the club’s secretary general, Alec Tournier.
The Swiss president, Pascal Couchepin, was among the first to praise the team's victory.
Couchepin and the minister for sport, Samuel Schmid, telephoned Bertarelli shortly after the race to offer their congratulations on behalf of the Swiss people.
Both ministers emphasised the importance of the historic win for Switzerland.
“Alinghi has won in a discipline which isn’t a traditional sport in a nation of mountain climbers,” said Couchepin in an interview with the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation.
"Switzerland can surprise people," he added.
The Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, which helped to design the boat, also offered its congratulations.
The institute’s president, Patrick Aebischer, called the win a meeting of science and technology combined with intuition and an enterprising spirit.
"Alinghi is a fantastic, human adventure and an excellent learning experience for all our students and employees," added vice-president, Stefan Catsicas.
Adolf Ogi, the former Swiss minister for sport, was also full of praise for the Swiss team.
“A boat is a small United Nations,” said the UN special envoy for Sport "We’re a part of the world, we shouldn’t forget that.“
swissinfo with agencies
Alinghi boss Ernesto Bertarelli invested $70 million (SFr96 million) in his bid to win the 2003 America's Cup.
The Alinghi team contains some of the biggest names in sailing, including top New Zealand sailor, Russell Coutts.
Bertarelli heads the Swiss biotech group Serono, which he took over from his father in 1996.
He began sailing at the age of seven on Lake Geneva.
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