Competition trumps controversy in New Zealand as America's Cup teams get their chance to compete in a regatta organized by Louis Vuitton in partnership with the New Zealand government.
The match racing series will take place Jan. 31-Feb. 14, 2009, in Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour. Emirates Team New Zealand, a former Cup defender, will provide its 2007 generation America's Cup boats and six to eight America's Cup challengers will match race to win the honor of taking on New Zealand’s America's Cup team in the final.
The decision to stage the regatta -- not an official America's Cup event -- sidesteps an ongoing controversy between two America's Cup rivals: BMW Oracle Racing and defending America's Cup champion Alinghi.
Litigation between the Golden Gate Yacht Club, which represents Larry Ellison's BMW Oracle Racing; and the Société Nautique de Genève, which represents Ernesto Bertarelli's Alinghi, effectively has brought the America's Cup event to a standstill with no clear vision of a new America's Cup cycle in sight.
The net result has been the collapse – or drastic reduction – in the number of teams hoping to challenge the defending champs as the current global economic climate and huge expense of maintaining an America's Cup racing team has taken its toll.
But now, the surviving challengers have an opportunity to match race each other in America's Cup boats. The driving force behind this effort is the French luxury goods manufacturer Louis Vuitton, which – until recently – organized the America's Cup Challenger Selection Series of races that narrowed the field down to one challenger to take on the defender in the America's Cup finals, as well as handled the complex media requirements for the event.
Louis Vuitton had severed all ties with the America's Cup after 25 years of successful participation when Swiss-based Alinghi's administration division, America’s Cup Management, was given control of the Challenger Selection Series and the event’s media network in 2007.
Bruno Trouble, a former helmsman for a French America's Cup challenger who steered Louis Vuitton through her past AC collaboration and sponsorship, is the driving force behind the forthcoming event in partnership with the New Zealand government.
Conscious that the teams involved are severely budgeted due to the America’s Cup structural meltdown, Trouble is keen to keep costs within reason. As a result, accommodation in Auckland has been arranged by Louis Vuitton and the organizers are seeking a deal with international airlines to help offset expenses.
The requirements of the teams are also being considered. A training period on the boats will be permitted and teams will be able to buy and fly spinnakers with their sponsor’s branding.
Louis Vuitton is determined to avoid offending the America's Cup defending champion Alinghi. All America's Cup branding will be removed from the boats to ensure a lack of confusion between the events.
In addition, the boats may be tweaked so they fail to measure within the Version 5 America's Cup rules, further distancing the Auckland match racing series from whatever Cup wreckage outlasts the ongoing litigation and the possibility of an Alinghi-BMW Oracle Racing one-on-one multihull event.
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