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Grand Prix Sailor–America’s Cup Edition

December 2, 2002
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Franck Socha/louis Vuitton

Grand Prix Sailor is a 13-year-old racing news publication of Sailing World Magazine (http://www.sailingworld.com). This AMERICA’S CUP EDITION is a weekly summary of Cup action, brought to you this week by Harken and C & C Yachts.

Bob Fisher’s Report from New Zealand

Can Conner Perform Another Houdini Act?
Dennis Conner’s remarkable ability to remain part of the America’s Cup has been amply demonstrated in the past. Arguably the best match race he ever sailed – the fourth of the series in 1983 that put Liberty 3-1 up against Australia II – was one notable occasion, and the negotiation of the three-boat defender trials final in 1995 was another, culminated by his come-from-behind win on the last leg against Mighty Mary to become the defender. This time, however, he is forced to resort to the “room”.

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And this protest is ugly. It alleges cheating by OneWorld that might be seen as striking at the spirit of the America’s Cup and is particularly frowned upon by the New York YC, the longest serving trustee of the trophy. Even the NYYC is ambivalent, to some extent, about the outcome, claiming that it wants to see fair play.

David Ellwell, the NYYC’s official challenge representative, wants to see the issue resolved. “We, along with the Yacht Club Punta Ala [Prada] feel that for the benefit of the event they absolutely need to be cleared up,” he said.

He added, “I hope in many, many regards they are cleared up satisfactorily and OneWorld goes on to win the America’s Cup and they can go home with a wonderful feeling they have done a great job and they have done it the way the rules say.” He then turned the issue back to the Arbitration Panel’s deliberation, saying, “I think it will be very appropriate for these issues to be laid down on the table and resolved.”

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OneWorld’s attitude to allowing Sean Reeves to testify to the Arbitration Panel appears to have changed. Earlier OneWorld had pointed to the gag imposed by his confidentiality agreement, the breaching of which has already cost Reeves $1.6 million, but on Friday, OneWorld Executive Director, Bob Rafcliffe, said they would be welcome for Reeves to give evidence to the Panel.

The International Jury, to whom Stars & Stripes protested, has delayed its hearing of the subject until after the Arbitration Panel has given its verdict. Instead of the lengthy process of gathering material the Panel first proposed, which would have ended on Christmas Eve, the Panel will now meet on Saturday and Sunday in Auckland and proposes to deliver its decision on the second day. The International Jury will, it seems likely, only endorse that decision and the semi-finals will begin the following day.

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Peter Holmberg
As the semi-finals of the Louis Vuitton Cup begin next week, Peter Holmberg, the helmsman of Oracle-BMW Racing, was asked which he considered of the speed producing factors was the most important, the boat, the sails or the crew.

“Hull and appendages are huge,” said Holmberg. “Sails are the horsepower – your hull is the drag, minimise the drag; your sails are the power, you do a great job with your sails and you don’t have to have a great hull. So sails are way up there, and then the sailors. You need all three, you can have a fast boat and sail it poorly. Our races with OneWorld were very tight races and I think the sailors won it. We got the side we wanted and the crucial little crossings and the crucial rounding, so the sailors won.

It was pointed out that Oracle’s next step is a fairly big one – they and Alinghi together – did he have any fixed ideas on how they were going to tackle them after they had comprehensively defeated OneWorld in the quarter-finals?

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“Spithill and Gilmour were a match-racing package,” said Holmberg, “but Alinghi with Coutts and Butterworth is a complete package. Their boat design, coming with the knowledge they had of Team New Zealand, is going to be right up there at the very top, and they are sailors. They are a very complete package – formidable opponents – and I don’t see any holes in their program. So as we prepare for them, we consider them to be the ultimate challenge as I think they are the favourite and we have to measure ourselves against them. We are going to have to have our boat speed at its very best and the sailors will have to sail flawlessly. When I scrimmage against Russell, I know his style and I will cater mine to be hopefully the better of the two. I enjoy racing against Russell; I don’t fear him, so that’s good for me. It’s enjoyable racing, he’s a clean, good sailor, so that’s the one I enjoy, win or lose. So I look forward to the match.”-Bob Fisher

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Hope springs eternal.
It’s interesting to note that two eliminated teams have chosen to remain in New Zealand through the end of 2002 to practice. Both Team GBR and Le Defi remain, ostensibly to train for the next Cup. The Swedes, however, have broken camp and headed home. “”There is a small chance, maybe a 1 per cent possibility, we will race again,” said Victory Challenge’s project manager Mats Johansson said. “But I don’t think so.”

Race Schedule
The Semifinals begin Dec. 9, and the matchups are Alinghi vs. Oracle, and Prada vs. OneWorld in best of seven series. The loser of Alinghi/Oracle will meet the winner of the Prada/OneWorld in the semifinal repechage, which begins Dec. 20.

The winner of Alinghi/Oracle will meet the winner of the semifinal repechage in a best of nine series, beginning Jan. 11. Got it?

Grand Prix Sailor and Grand Prix Sailor–America’s Cup Edition are weekly newsletters compiled by the editors of Sailing World magazine. If you’d like to subscribe, see http://www.sailingworld.com Contributing Editors: Tony Bessinger ([email protected]), Dave Reed ([email protected]), Stuart Streuli ([email protected]), John Burnham ([email protected])

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