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Spithill Shines for OneWorld, Prada Reeling

October 6, 2002
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James Spithill, nominated by Seattle-based OneWorld Team’s Sailing Director, Peter Gilmour, to be the helmsman and skipper of USA-67 for the first round robin, is proving to be the star choice. After an hardly testing match against Mascalzone Latino, Spithill came into the start with Russell Coutts in the much vaunted Alinghi in what many saw as a preview to the final of the challenger series, and readily adapted when Coutts, coming from the starboard end, eschewed the now accepted dial-up and dived deep to gybe back. Spithill accepted the master’s ploy and bore off to chase the Swiss boat.

It reverted to a classic “push and shove” with Spithill taking the initiative and forcing Coutts into an error with a minute and a quarter to go. “We knew then we had got it wrong,” admitted Brad Butterworth, and with his opponent reeling, Spithill started to windward with the right hand side advantage and an eight second lead off the line. It was a typical Gilmour start, but executed by his protégé who went on to win the race.

First four days providing a guide to the pecking order.

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Three teams have established themselves as almost certain to move into the top four of the two rounds robin, OneWorld, Alinghi and Oracle -BMW Racing, while two defeats for Team Dennis Conner’s Stars & Stripes drops them back into potential contender for the fourth slot along with the Swedish Victory Challenge, Britain’s Wight Lightning, and Prada’s Luna Rossa.

It’s the relative failure of the strife-torn Prada, following syndicate head Patrizio Bertelli’s sacking of Design Chief, Doug Peterson, that brings the 2002/3 Louis Vuitton Cup into its true perspective. Luna Rossa’s victory in 2000 is nothing more than a mere memory.

The Italians’ sole victory has been against the French Le Defi Areva–a team without a win so far–and they have suffered at the hands of Oracle-BMW Racing, Stars & Stripes, and Alinghi, all of whom have beaten Luna Rossa quite comfortably. Bertelli is staring straight down the barrel of a Christmas at home and $85 million in the bin.

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His discomfort is compounded by the unhappiness of Gavin Brady who has been chosen to steer the tune-up boat and has not seen action on the racecourse. Rumors of Brady’s break with the syndicate were countered by Alessandra Ghezzi, the Prada spokeswoman, who said, “Gavin Brady is reviewing some aspects of his contract with us.” Presumably, these were the termination clauses.

Larry Ellison is at pains to point out that there are none of Oracle Corporation’s dollars in his campaign and that the time he is spending sailing personally is less than his usual annual vacation. He adds that he owns his office furniture and the art on its walls, not the corporation. He gave the naming rights to the corporation as a goodwill gesture for marketing.

Ellison accepted the partnership of BMW for its technology input and the lessening of his own financial commitment, by an estimated $20 millions. Smart man.

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It is this same figure that is the entire Mascalzone Latino budget. This sparsely financed Italian team, a complete contrast to their countrymen in Prada, has won the hearts of Aucklanders. The younger members cheeky move, writing their mobile telephone numbers on small Italian flags that they handed to the prettiest girls watching the procession of the teams to the Opening Ceremony, appears to have paid off.

It’s not quite like that in the British GBR Challenge camp where two of the race crew were given days off to be with their wives while they gave birth in local hospitals.

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