Alinghi clinch it

Ed Baird and his team scoop final Amsterdam regatta and overall iShares Cup win

Monday September 22nd 2008, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom
Alinghi added a fourth consecutive iShares Cup event trophy to their collection today at the season finale in Amsterdam, but they had to work hard from the outset. British America's Cup challengers TeamOrigin had led for the early part of the season, and the duo went into Round 5 tied on equal points. TeamOrigin’s hopes of defending the trophy Rob Greenhalgh won last year faltered as Alinghi scored an amazing five race wins in a row at the beginning of Round 5 in Amsterdam. However the Swiss Cup defenders only secured the overall lead today, the very last day of racing, in Race 16 - the 77th of the series!

"TeamOrigin set the bar for us," said winning Alinghi skipper Ed Baird. "We knew what we had to do to try and catch up to that level, but they have increased their level this year as well. They’ve been a great opponent all year.

Over the course of the 2008 iShares Cup every team entered in the series has won a race, and the finale in Amsterdam was no exception, with JPMorgan Asset Management skippered by Shirley Robertson, and Randy Smyth on Tommy Hilfiger each taking two races off the series leaders today in hugely challenging shifty conditions. The Alinghi team always said they were coming to the iShares Cup to learn how to sail multihulls, and they were learning from the best in a fleet packed with Olympic gold medallists and world champions: "The iShares Cup season has been great, it’s got all the best guys here,” added Ed Baird. “We started out a little shaky but it got better from there - and we’ve definitely learned a lot. And sailing next to the shore has been tons of fun!"

Baird also paid tribute to his crew of mainsail trimmer Rodney Ardern (NZL), trimmer Lorenzo Mazza (ITA), and bowman Piet van Nieuwenhuijzen (NED). "I have to give a lot of credit to my team, they really supported me all through the year – they made the boat go fast, they made the boat handling go well and got us round the course safely so well done to them."

Second place overall went to TeamOrigin, skippered by Rob Greenhalgh. The British team had held the top of the leaderboard for the entire season, but failed to get an event win under their belts and had some poor results in the last event of the no-discard series. "We've struggled here, but Alinghi have sailed exceptionally," conceded Rob Greenhalgh. “I am naturally disappointed not to win the series but equally really proud of my team for getting second place. Alinghi has been a really great competitor and we look forward to competing again next year.”

Sir Keith Mills, TeamOrigin Team Principle, commented: “I am really proud of my team. We got involved in the series because of delays in the Americas cup programme but actually it has been really useful for us in terms of our brand profile, hospitality and training. This has been an important circuit as part of TeamOrigin preparation for our next big challenge and we look forward to competing again in 2009. We are hopeful for some clarity for the America’s Cup programme in the coming months.”

Second place at the final event went to BT, which also secured them third overall for the second year in a row. The BT crew got a new helmsman for Amsterdam in multiple Tornado World Champion Darren Bundock, who built on the results Andrew Walsh had scored to take the remaining overall podium position behind TeamOrigin. Skipper Nick Moloney said: “We’re really stocked! I think it’s a testament to the fact that we did actually sail well, because we were just purely focused on the overall but obviously Oman Sail and Holmatro were there all the time and we just had to really race them. The three of us sailed really well.

This is the second iShares Cup Moloney has competed in with the BT crew. “This year’s been huge,” he said. “There’s been a massive step up in the performance and the professionalism of the teams and the way the events have been organised, it’s just on a really steep upward curve and it’s just awesome to be associated with it. I feel like we’re doing the coolest sailing that’s going on in yachting right now.

“I definitely want to come back next year. For me now it’s about three podiums in a row and I only want to come back to be one of the winners. I want to go into every event knowing we could win an event - we haven’t won one yet, so to win an event and to win the overall series is an objective next year for sure.”

The final event of the five-round European iShares Cup Extreme 40 Sailing Series proved to be the only event where the result was not decided in the final race, but even in Amsterdam it wasn't settled until the 16th race out of 18. Going into the final round Alinghi and TeamOrigin were on equal points overall and by race 16 America's Cup defenders Alinghi, skippered by Ed Baird had done just enough to wrap up the Amsterdam event and clinch the overall prize for the 2008 iShares Cup. The score sheet not really reflecting that this was no easy achievement for the Swiss team who had been pushed throughout the season by the British America's Cup boys on TeamOrigin. After a three-day tussle with Oman Sail, BT secured the final slot on the overall iShares Cup podium in third place.

Over the five European events, seven different teams have stepped onto the podium, and in every race the positions have never stopped changing. Ten teams have competed throughout the season with the addition of two BMW Oracle Extreme 40s at the UK round and the French team, Twins, racing in Hyéres. The Extreme 40 sailors are at the top of their game competing at the Olympics, in the America's Cup, Volvo Ocean Race, amongst others and now the iShares Cup has become a must on their calendar: "The who's who of sailing are on the Extreme 40's. The level has lifted with the America's Cup teams joining the circuit and spectator levels have sky-rocketed with all the guys pushing the boats to the limits and capsizes and crashes are just part of the racing. It's great stuff!" claimed Beijing Olympic silver medallist, Darren Bundock, helm of BT.

Over 150,000 spectators across the events in Lugano, Hyéres, Cowes, Kiel and Amsterdam have enjoyed the spectacular entertainment of the Extreme 40 fleet battling it out for supremacy on short-courses just a stone's throw away from the shore. The circuit has attracted an unprecedented amount of media coverage around the globe, with an independently measured media value of coverage exceeding 3 million Euros by the end of the year.

Rick Andrews, Head of iShares Marketing, Europe: "It's been a great season for us as Title Partner to the event - we built heavily on last year, learnt a lot last year, learnt at every event this year, and I think we've seen that with the feedback from our own people that the events have got better and better, with more and more people on the dockside watching the events, and overall its been a great success for us.

Plans are already well advanced for the next three years, as Gilles Chiorri OC Events Director confirms: "We're close to confirming venues for the European Series in 2009, but are also moving ahead with pathfinder events in the Middle-East and Australasia which a vision for stand-alone series in those regions from 2010. We expect the European series in 2009 to be bigger and better again, working more closely with the host cities bidding for the event to create an even better entertainment product."

Over 25 teams have already expressed an interest to compete in next year's circuit and it's not difficult to see why. "We will be back next year - that is not a discussion! And we are looking forward to 2009. It's absolutely sure that the iShares Cup circuit will be part of our marketing strategy - our sales people are already working to invite the best customers. The series in Europe is really hot and I'm pleasantly surprised that all the top sailors really want to come to the circuit, and all the credit for that goes to OC Events," commented Jaap Meijer, CEO Holmatro.

Overall results:

Pos Team Lugano Hyeres Cowes Kiel Amsterdam Tot
1 Alinghi 6 10 10 10 10 46
2 Team Origin 9 9 9 9 5 41
3 BT 8 5 5 7 9 34
4 Oman Sail 7 2 7 5 8 29
5 Holmatro 4 7 8 4 4 27
6 JP Morgan Asset Management 10 4 3 3 6 26
7 Team Aqua 3 6 2 8 3 22
8 Volvo Ocean Race 2 8 4 1 2 17
9 iShares 5 3 6 2 1 17
10 Tommy Hilfiger 0 1 0 6 7 14

More photos on the following pages...

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