Christophe Launay Photography / www.sealaunay.com

Revving engines

America's Cup skippers gather in Cascais

Thursday August 4th 2011, Author: Peter Rusch, Location: Portugal

Nine of the best sailing teams in the world are making their final preparations in Cascais, Portugal ahead of the opening weekend of the 34th America’s Cup.

The Cascais AC World Series Preliminaries consist of two events over the course of this weekend – the Cascais AC Open and the AC 500 Speed Trial. Saturday will see the first three fleet races of the AC Open as well as the exciting speed test – a timed, sprint over a 500-meter course. On Sunday is the fourth fleet race of the AC Open.

All racing will be streamed live on www.americascup.com, beginning at 1400 local time (GMT+1) on Saturday afternoon.

The forecast for Saturday is for northwesterly winds building to 15 knots, with a possibility of stronger winds late in the afternoon. Over the next two days, the teams and race committee will continue their training ahead of Saturday’s opening races.

Some highlights from Thursday’s press conference, which took place in the media center in the presence of the America’s Cup trophy, which was making its first appearance in Portugal:

Bertrand Pacé, skipper, Aleph: On board, I am the wing trimmer and the tactician. I am getting to grips on board more and more each time we sail. The challenge is exciting, and I am trying to do my best. The wing is really interesting because this is completely new and different than a soft sail, because of its raw power. I am learning more every day about how to control the power.

Terry Hutchinson, skipper, Artemis Racing: We have a new team and we are learning a lot of things about ourselves and catamarans and multihulls in general. So we’ll use the scorecard here as one measure of success, but I think as long as we see performance increases each day that’s another measure, regardless of results.

Mitch Booth, skipper, China Team: It’s really enjoyable. The first time we try to join east and west. The experience is really rewarding. Sometimes it’s a little challenging but when you get it right it’s very rewarding when the team gels. We’re learning how to communicate very quickly on the boat and we’re enjoying every day.

Dean Barker, skipper, Emirates Team New Zealand: Our team has been very focused on monohull sailing over the last few years and had some good results so the transition to multihulls is very interesting. It’s a new game to a lot of us, and there are a lot of lessons to be learned. It’s a challenge.

Loïck Peyron, skipper, Energy Team: You always prefer the turbo engine of the wingsail compared to a traditional sail. These boats are very interesting and a good tool for the game we want to play. But we need to learn. I love learning at least one thing every day and these past weeks I’m learning many things each day.

Vasilij Zbogar, skipper, Green Comm Racing: (Asked about having a crew full of ‘skippers’) When they look at the rudder (to steer) I just punch them! I think our first day we realized that everyone on the boat needs to be a skipper. It’s a full team required to sail.

Chris Draper, skipper, Team Korea: We’re excited. The boats provide a great, level playing field. The wing is a big leveling platform. We’re really excited but we’re under no false illusions. We just want to get started and get racing.

James Spithill, skipper, Oracle Racing Spithill: I think ‘favorite’ is an interesting term. When you look at the group of sailors here and how quickly everyone has got up to speed, that highlights how tough it’s going to be out on the water.

Russell Coutts, skipper, ORACLE Racing Coutts: We’ve practiced as much as we can and I think we’re ready to get out there and race. I’m looking forward to it. I think we have a chance of winning and that’s as good as you can get at this point.

Iain Murray, Regatta Director and CEO, ACRM: We’ve been working on this for the past 10 months, the creation of the boats, trials and tests in New Zealand and San Francisco and bringing a lot innovation to the sport as well as the way we’ll bring it to spectators around the world. We think it’s going to be spectacular.

Craig Thompson, CEO, America’s Cup Event Authority: I don’t think there could be a more perfect venue for the start of the AC World Series. Cascais is gorgeous as a city, beautiful waters, beautiful beaches and for the first time we’ll be racing along the shore where people on the beaches can watch and be part of this great event. We have the best sailors on the fastest boats, and it’s going to be fantastic.

Patrick M de Barros, Chairman of the local organizing committee: I think this even marks a dramatic change to the history and format of the Cup and I think we owe this to the vision of Larry Ellison, Russell Coutts and James Spithill… I wish all of you a great regatta and great winds.

More images from Christophe Launay/www.sealaunay.com

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