Tuesday, 26 June 2007

The fight for the Auld Mug heats up...

The fight for the world's oldest sporting trophy, the 32nd America's Cup is well under way in Valencia, Spain.

Background: A competition between large yachts, it represents the Formula One of sailing. The competitive edge comes via technology (with boat design & equipment within highly-defined regulations playing a large part), skill, teamwork, strength, & - what makes it such a thrilling competition - tactics & cunning.

International teams capable of raising the £100-200 million required to finance a single competitive campaign cycle (so think large corporate sponsors) fight through a number of regattas for the right to be the sole challenger to the existing holder in the final (assuming they wish to defend their title). The competitive cycle runs every 2-4 years (as determined by the holder). The location of the racing is determined by the nationality of the current title holder; this time around, the title holder is Alinghi, a Swiss team, and as Switzerland is land-locked, they've chosen Spain as a near-by location.

The 32nd Competition:
The Louis Vuitton Cup to determine the challenger to the existing holder ran during May and June 2007; Last time's beaten finalist, Team New Zealand outclassed the field and set up an intriguing rematch in the America's Cup itself, against the Swiss holders, Alinghi. Last time, Alinghi beat New Zealand 5-0 in the best of 9 final; would New Zealand have learned anything over the last 4 years?

The first race was run on 23/6/07; Alinghi - racing for the first time in true America's Cup competition since 2003 - looked a class apart from their competitor as they easily beat Team New Zealand to take a 1-0 lead.

Race 2 (24/6/07) was a highly exciting tactical battle, with Team New Zealand winning out to even the score at 1-1, ensuring that the 32nd cup will be the first since the 28th that won't end as a whitewash.

Today is a rest day, with race 3 on 26/6, the 4th on 27/6, 5th on 29/6, 6th on 30/6, and if required, the 7th on 1/7, 8th on 3/7 and (perish the thought) a deciding 9th on 4/7.

There's added interest this time around, as the British concern TeamOrigin have announced their intention to compete against this year's winner for the 33rd campaign (and beyond).

It's a fringe sport, but as such it's a remarkable spectacle, and if you've never watched yachting like this before, you won't believe the work rate of the crews - it's well worth checking out. You can watch it live on Sky Sports in Europe, with further coverage on the UK's Channel 4. The official website here has live graphical and radio coverage, as well as a wealth of background information. Enjoy!

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