Act 12 Set To Conclude Season

The final match-racing regatta before the Louis Vuitton next April, Act 12 gives the competitors one last opportunity to size up their opponents.

AlinghiAct12Preview
Th.martinez/alinghi

The final America's Cup Class regatta of 2006, Louis Vuitton Act 12, begins today in Valencia. It represents the last chance for all 12 teams entered in the 2007 America's Cup to race against each other in a match-racing format before the Louis Vuitton Cup begins next April, even though Act 13, a fleet racing event, is scheduled next year prior to the LVC. The act begins with one simple question on observers' minds: Who's going to knock Alinghi off its lofty perch? The defender of the 32nd America's Cup raced its 2002-generation SUI-75 at the regattas last month and fared fine, especially considering the top three challengers - BMW Oracle Racing, Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa - all raced their new boats. Alinghi finished fourth with a 9-2 record, but it lost tiebreakers with Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Challenge for second. It was just the fourth time in the 11 regattas that Alinghi didn't win. Alinghi's performance against the new boats prompted Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia skipper Vasco Vascotto to opine, "Alinghi continues to be the benchmark. This means that the strongest teams have already thrown away a new boat just to get to where Alinghi was. This is good news for the smaller teams that will only build one boat." The top four teams will race the same boats they sailed last month, SUI-75, USA-87, NZL-84 and ITA-86. Alinghi has a new boat in its stable, SUI-91, but opted against racing it. "Ninety-one is brand new. It's not ready for this event," said Brad Butterworth, Alinghi's skipper, tactician and vice president. "Even if it was, we probably wouldn't race it. It's not in our interest to show the new boat. We don't need to and it's something we'd rather keep to ourselves for the time being." While Alinghi keeps 91 to itself, Desafio Español has entered its new ESP-88, launched last month. Desafio Español tactician John Cutler said the team thought long and hard whether to race the new boat because it feels its older boats are reliable and quick in light winds. Cutler said the team made its decision looking towards next year. "We felt getting the boat out there and learning more how to race it and trying to get more performance out of it would be the best thing," Cutler said. "We'll see in two weeks time whether that was right move, but so far we're pretty happy with the new boat." Italy's Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia is another team with a new boat, but it isn't ready for prime time. ITA-90 has been sailed against stablemate ITA-77, but a seemingly structural problem has developed that is keeping it in the shed. "To have a new boat is something that needs time to test," said Mascalzone tactician Vasco Vascotto. "We had a little small issue on the track of mainsail. We wasted some time on that and because we're tight on time we decided to use 77. I think we did a good job in last act with it. As soon as we finish this act 90 will be ready." Although crew lists won't be issued until tomorrow, one significant change is on hand. In keeping with its program of crew development, Alinghi has selected Peter Holmberg as helmsman for the event. Holmberg, an Olympic silver medalist from the U.S. Virgin Islands, last helmed Alinghi at Acts 4 and 5 in Valencia last year, although he's been at the helm during in-house racing and training and has been a strategist at times during live racing. Holmberg was impressive last year, constantly winning the starts and showing a good handle of the boat around the racecourse. "He's very much structured for match-racing tactics," said Alinghi sporting director Jochen Schuemann, who's also a team helmsman. "He's aggressive, with a clear plan and comes with a clear approach to everything, which he's able to execute with good boys around him." Luna Rossa also has a potential crew change on hand. Tactician Torben Grael has returned to the team after fulfilling his role as skipper of Brasil 1 in the Volvo Ocean Race. Grael placed third with Brasil 1. Grael, however, is no stranger to Luna Rossa. He was skipper Francesco de Angelis' tactician during the 2000 and 2003 Cup seasons in New Zealand. Charlie McKee, also a tactician for Luna Rossa, heralded his return. "Any time you can add someone with that kind of talent to your team you're pretty happy about it," McKee said of Grael. "As several people have mentioned, figuring out how all the pieces fit can take time and we're going through that process now. For sure he'll do some sailing in this regatta and we're eager to have him. We view it as a strong plus for our team." Act 12 is the final event of the 2006 America's Cup Class season. Luna Rossa leads the standings with 22 points. Alinghi and BMW Oracle are tied for second at 21, followed by Team New Zealand in fourth with 20 points. After that there's a 6-point gap to Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia in fifth. Act 12 closely resembles the Louis Vuitton Cup in that it features only match-racing. There will be no fleet racing at the end. The 12 teams will sail a single round robin with the top four advancing to semifinal and final rounds. The winner of the round robin gets to choose its opponent in the semis, and the winner of each series will be the first to 3 points. The remaining eight teams won't be eliminated. Teams placed 5th through 8th and 9th through 12th will race similar series for those positions. The 5th- and 9th-placed get to choose their opponents. America's Cup Class 2006 Championship (Standings after 2 of 3 regattas) 1. Luna Rossa Challenge (ITA) 22 points 2. Alinghi (SUI) 21 points T. BMW Oracle Racing (USA) 21 points 4. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) 20 points 5. Mascalzone Latino - Capitalia (ITA) 14 points 6. Desafio Espanol (ESP) 12 points T. Team Shosholoza (RSA) 12 points 8. Victory Challenge (SWE) 10 points 9. Areva Challenge (ITA) 9 points T. +39 Challenge (ITA) 9 points 11. United Internet Team Germany (GER) 4 points 12. China Team (CHN) 2 points