Louis Vuitton final preview

From Auckland Peter Rusch assesses the form of the two Kiwi-led challengers
The best of nine Louis Vuitton Cup Final features two New Zealand born skippers battling for the right to face Team New Zealand, and wrest the America’s Cup from their homeland. Alinghi’s Russell Coutts, who has won the Louis Vuitton Cup once (1995) and the America’s Cup twice (1995, 2000) faces Chris Dickson whose best result came 15 years ago as a Louis Vuitton Cup Finalist for New Zealand in 1987. Both skippers front international teams, with a healthy contingent of fellow Kiwis alongside them. Both teams have put up impressive numbers in their races to date, and can draw on long winning streaks earlier in the competition as a source of confidence. Both teams are backed by very rich men who have sailing aspirations of their own, and who have fronted up enough money to ensure that no demand is unmet on the way to assembling some world class sailing and design teams.. But despite numerous similarities, these teams have taken very different roads to the Final, and based on the head-to-head match-up to date, the smart money has to favour Coutts and Alinghi in this series. Oracle BMW Racing started slowly, going 5-3 in Round Robin One and losing its first race to Prada in Round Two. Team owner and occasional afterguard member Larry Ellison then shook up the team, putting Chris Dickson aboard as skipper. Dickson promptly insisted Ellison stay off the boat, and the team then cut a swathe through the Challengers, going undefeated until they met Alinghi in the Semi Finals. Alinghi also began this regatta slower than many predicted. The team seemed to take a while to find its feet, racking up a 13-3 record (it says a lot about Russell Coutts that this is considered a ‘slow’ start!) and not looking like