Alinghi gets the right

News from the team's press conference this morning in Auckland

Friday February 14th 2003, Author: James Boyd, Location: Australasia
This morning in front of an impressive gathering of international press and photographers, Russell Coutts won the toss for Alinghi and will start tomorrow's first race of the America's Cup from the favoured committee boat end.

In the chair at the press conference were the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron's Harold Bennett who will be the man deciding in what conditions racing will take place during the Cup - this is a significant different between the Cup and the challenger series when clear parameters will be placed on the conditions in which racing can and cannot take place.

Team New Zealand was represented by Ross Blackman, Tom Schnackenberg and skipper Dean Barker, while Michel Bonnifous, Russell Coutts and Ernesto Bertarelli were there for Alinghi. Chief measurer Bryan Willis kicked off proceedings:

Q: The umpires onboard the racing boats, have they made any difference?

Bryan Willis : Yes, it's made a big difference, the decisions about where overlaps come and go are now definitive, and the great thing now is that the skippers and the afterguard know exactly when this change of relationship occurs at the same time as the umpires, and they like that. We also feed back other information via the onboard observer to the afterguards, especially in situations like the dial-up.

Q: Will there be an onboard umpire onboard the boats everyday?

Bryan Willis : Yes, there are five [umpires] in the team and those five take the positions of onboard observers, two umpires in the umpire boat and one on the wing boat, and those people will change around each day.

Q: What about the forecast for tomorrow?

Harold Bennett : The forecast for tomorrow at the moment would indicate that we should have something from the south which may even get up to 16-18 knots, maybe a little more, so hopefully that will arrive for us and we can get away on time.

Q : Michel, what you have achieved in two years is amazing, is there anything you would have done differently?

Michel Bonnefous : Well there are always things you can do better, but I think we are very happy with what we have achieved so far, we have a great, great team. I think one thing that is interesting is that there is big support back in Switzerland for Alinghi and they are very passionate about this event. It is something new for us and it is great.

Q: Russell, You have been involved with this event since 1992, how much of this will be won by the boat, and how much by the crew?

Russell Coutts : I think at the end of the day, the best team wins and I think the team as a whole is responsible for developing the boat and certainly in our team, in Alinghi, the team is also largely responsible for the performance on the water and so I think the best team will win.

Q : But the teams have very different hulls, mast, bulbs and other changes. Do you expect the two boats to be quite even in boat speed?

Russell Coutts : Well, I think you will see some differences in performance out there for sure. The boats are different enough that there should be some differences in performance, and that's one of the great and exciting things about this event. You know that in Race 1, 2, 3, you are going to get different impressions throughout the series and that's certainly something we'll all be very interested in.

Q: What do you think are the similarities between you and Dean Barker and what are the main differences?

Russell Coutts : I don't know about the differences that much. I think we both have a similar determination, similar wills to search out the answers to the questions. We are always looking for improvements we can make to our own sailing on the water.

Q: Have you left yourselves any options for protest over Team New Zealand's design features, specifically the hula?

Russell Coutts : At this stage we are not planning on anything I think the measurers are the ones that check legality of that just as they do on all parts of the yacht, they frequently have post-race measurement checks so through that process there shouldn't have been a need to lodge a protest.

Q : Ernesto, never before has a challenger succeeded on their first attempt, what is your feeling on the eve of this important event of your life?

Ernesto Bertarelli : We are going to see if we can make history. I think the America's Cup is about challenges and if there is an extra one for us, we'll take it on.

Q : Can you tell me, win or lose, are you in the America's Cup for the long haul?

Ernesto Bertarelli : Right now we think that whatever happens we are going to be here next time.

Q: What is your view on the degree of hometown support for Team New Zealand, also your comments overseas of criticsim over the Loyal campaign?

Ernesto Bertarelli : It is the local team, they have the home ground advantage. We are very pleased with the support we are getting ourselves from Switzerland - the towns have been decorated with the Alinghi flag. We just received yesterday a very nice letter from the President of our country and it was a very helpful letter because it has a lot of things in there that are things that Alinghi believe in. It really shows that the country is in sync with Alinghi and with what Alinghi is trying to promote.

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