America's Cup update

In the first of his regular weekly columns, Nigel Cherrie reports on the latest goings-on on Syndicate Alley
Above: Sweden's Victory Challenge While hospitality is a trademark of the open New Zealand culture, down at Halsey Street (syndicate row) the compounds are so heavily concealed and guarded that even fresh air has trouble making it past the security gates. So it is with some surprise that Larry Ellison's Oracle team, one of the four major players, have opened their doors, or one gate at least and invited some of their fellow challengers to some out of hours drinks and nibbles at the team compound. Popularity points or perhaps it is time to meet the neighbours? The latter now seems to a regular theme out on the Hauraki Gulf with GBR Challenge squaring up their next door neighbours, Sweden's Victory Challenge in some pre-start practice recently. The British lads convincingly won the first start before gear failure on both teams curtailed the session. On Friday GBR Challenge were playing with the mighty Prada. Otherwise Peter Harrison's team are racking up long hours (10-7 in one instance) on the water, testing all the possible go faster variables and adding in some match race practice to spice up sessions. The shattered looks ashore proves they are giving it their all before the America's Cup International Regatta (formerly the Road to America's Cup Regatta) in just over a weeks time where they will face Sweden again, plus OneWorld and the America's Cup defenders Team New Zealand in 2000 generation yachts. The format will be virtually identical to that staged between ACC boats during the successful America's Cup Jubilee in Cowes, England, last August with two days of fleet racing followed by two days of match racing. TNZ remain tight-lipped about their progress, especially their training programme, although the first of their two new boats is expected to emerge from the building shed in August or September. As