Swiss America's Cup challenge opens its doors

Ernesto Bertarelli shows off his training boat and announces his program leading up to the 2004 AC

Friday May 11th 2001, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom
Ernesto Bertarelli, head of the Swiss challenge for the 2004 America's Cup today revealed his plans for taking the honours back to land-locked Switzerland in 2004. There is nothing like having the skipper of the previous America's Cup winner and his tactician in your campaign and with Russell Coutts and Brad Butterworth both on board along with many other top notch international sailors such as Jochen Schueman, the 35-year-old Swiss billionaire's Geneva-based campaign would appear to be one of the most serious challengers for the next America's Cup in Auckland. At a press conference this morning in Geneva the name of Bertarelli's campaign was announced as being Alinghi, the Swiss Challenge for the America's Cup. Bertarelli already has a racing catamaran of this name based on Lake Geneva. New sponsors were also announced in the form of Infonet and Swiss banking giant and former Pierre Fehlmann sponsor, UBS. It is believed their contribution will make up around one third of the team's $55 million war chest.

Also unveiled was the Alinghi's training boat, the Swiss Challenger Be Happy from the last Louis Vuitton Cup. She has been rebuilt extensively at the campaign's boatyard, Decision SA. Her unusual twin keels have been removed, a conventional rudder fitted and she is now sporting a brilliant new paint job. "We have chosen 'passion red' to express our determination, and anthracite grey to symbolize state-of-the-art technology," explained Bertarelli. "As for Alinghi, it's an imaginary name that has brought me good luck."

Alinghi employs 60 people of whom 26 are sailors and around the same number boat builders. The sailing team, led by Coutts and Butterworth will begin training on board the former Be Happy, when it arrives in Sete, south west France, on 18 May. The team will only decamp to New Zealand once the first of their two new boats is launched and flown out there in December.

This summer the Alinghi team are also running a series of match racing events across Switzerland. Local yacht clubs can run their own championship in eight metres or the local Surprise class and the winner gets to race against a boat crewed by members of the America's Cup team. In the unfortunate situation that the local team beats Russell Coutts or Jochen Schueman then tactician Brad Butterworth says they may be in danger of getting signed up. "We're trying to find some Swiss sailors. There's five or six already on the team and we probably need another four or five. There's always guys getting broken." The Alinghi Swiss Tour will start off in Geneva this weekend before visiting local yacht clubs at St Moritz, Thome and Neuchatel.

The team will also be taking a week off in August to visit Cowes for the America's Cup Jubilee regatta. There they will be sailing the 12metre South Australia. "We weren't really counting on going to Cowes," said Butterworth. "It will be good to go to have a bit of fun, sail the 12metre and catch up with a few friends."

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