America's Cup: The countdown starts for Cascais - Coutts to skipper

ORACLE Racing - at Golden Gate Yacht Club

The first competition of the new multihull America’s Cup era begins with the inaugural America’s Cup World Series in Cascais, Portugal, on August 6.

Nine teams from eight different countries will race identical AC45 wing-sailed catamarans directly off the coast. Designed for extreme speed, the AC45 has proven to be a handful in strong conditions, which predict a strenuous, physical event in windy Cascais.

For the first time, teams entered in the 34th America’s Cup will compete together, including the current champions, ORACLE Racing of the United States.

Among the teams will be newcomers in the America’s Cup’s 160 year history; Team Korea’s White Tiger Challenge, Italy’s Venezia Challenge, Sweden’s Artemis Racing, Spain’s Green Comm Racing and French competitors Aleph and Energy Team.

They join the 1995 and 2000 America’s Cup winner Emirates Team New Zealand, the 2007 debutant China Team, as well as the American defender.

The line-up includes some of the best sailors in the world, including the trans-ocean legends Loick Peyron and Alain Gautier, who will test their skills against inshore racing World Champions, Olympic medalists and past America's Cup winners aboard the action-intensive AC45s.

The most successful America’s Cup skipper in the long history of the event, Russell Coutts, will skipper one of the 10 boats. The CEO of the defending America’s Cup champions, ORACLE Racing, Coutts is learning fast about the fine line between full-throttle performance and total wipe-out following a spectacular capsize on San Francisco Bay.

'The spectacular speeds of the boats and the tight angles we sail often put us on the edge,' Coutts said. 'Some of us are learning the hard way as to where the edge is. But all of this makes for the most dynamic racing possible in sailing. '

The catamarans are capable of speeds in excess of 30 knots – the equivalent to 36 mph or 55 kph.

Racing will take place within meters of shore side spectators on the River Tagus waterfront at Cascais, including the action-intensive 10 boat fleet racing.

Among the innovations included in the America’s Cup World Series will be a no-limits speed trial to open the event on August 6. Individual crews will aim for the maximum velocity.

Racing includes both fleet (all boats) and match (pairs of boats) format, with the AC World Series – Cascais the first opportunity for teams to put points on the board for the inaugural and sure to be hotly-contested AC World Series season championship.

The stars of the America’s Cup World Series are the 10 teams and their international crews on this new global championship circuit that precedes the 34th America’s Cup, two years from now.

34th America’s Cup - AC World Series Cascais 2001 - 9 skippers, l.to r. : James Spithill (ORACLE Racing), Dean Barker (Emirates Team New Zealand) Loic Peyron (Team Energy), Bertrand Pacé (Aleph), Torvar Mirsky (Venezia Challenge). Bottom : Terry Hutchinson (Artemis), Vasilij Zbogar (Green Comm Challenge), Mitch Booth ( China Team), Kim Dong-Young (Team Korea), Russell Coutts (ORACLE Racing)

Quotes from the teams

Russell Coutts, Helmsman, ORACLE Racing Boat No. 5 (USA)

'Cascais is a great place to sail. I've raced there a lot and it's going to be good to be back, especially with the public just meters away from all the action and excitement.'


Grant Dalton, CEO, Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL)

'We expect to learn a lot about racing multihulls and we hope for really good racing. We have seen at Auckland that these yachts can be a spectacular sight when they are powered up. Sailing team members are making a smooth transition from monohull to multihull sailing and Cascais will be the first opportunity to check in with the other teams. We have put in the hours on the water so hope to make a good showing at Cascais.'


Loick Peyron, Helmsman, Energy Team (FRA)

'I've sailed multihulls since the very beginning of the eighties, and the only thing I’ve learned is that I love to learn. Something new every day, which is, I’m sure, going to be the case. We will need time to feel the machine and try to use it at 100 percent. Despite quite a lot of nautical miles spent on multihulls, I’ve never capsized, and will try to keep it like that a bit further more!

'But these AC45s have quite a lot of power in their ‘engines’ so we really have to be careful. Because we are going to sail for the first time on these boats a few days only before the first event in Cascais starts, our main goal is to be conservative. In any case we know we have a lot to discover, with a lot of humility compared to the big teams. I will tell you that after our first sailing session, I know it will be like any other multihull: it’s never boring. '


Torvar Mirksy, Helmsman, Venezia Challenge (ITA)

At 25, the Australian is a rising star on the match racing circuit in monohulls and now is taking his first shot at the America’s Cup. 'I just can’t wait to get out on the water on the AC45. The quality of teams and the competition is as high as can be. It is something I have been dreaming of all my life so I can’t wait for it to happen.'


Vasilij Zbogar, Helmsman, Green Comm Racing (ESP)

A two-time Olympic medalist in the Laser class, the 35-year-old Slovenian is a newcomer to the America’s Cup. 'This is a step you always have in the back of your mind to be in the America’s Cup. Everyone is new to this America’s Cup especially the catamaran and the new format of the racing. We have been sailing all our lives. We will learn very fast and improve very fast. We are not afraid. We will try to do some decent racing and learn as much as possible.'


Terry Hutchinson, Helmsman, Artemis Racing (SWE)

'Artemis Racing is looking forward to the racing in Cascais. Having raced TP52s there in the past, we know that course will provide for good breeze and in this new breed of boat should elevate the excitement level to a standard that we have not seen before. After such a long hiatus away from any formal America's Cup competition, it is good to finally get it started.'


Kim Dong Young, CEO Team Korea, the White Tiger Challenge (KOR)

'We are building together a very strong and experienced team to sail the ‘White Tiger’, our team’s AC45. Our new helmsman is a multiple World and European Champion and is familiar with catamarans as well as monohulls, so even though Cascais will be the first time we will have raced the boat, we hope we can be competitive around the race track while flying the ‘Taegukki’, the national flag of Korea, and at the same time bring some of our Korean culture and friendliness to everyone who comes to watch this new America’s Cup World Series.'


Philippe Ligot, CEO, Aleph (FRA)

'We are really looking forward to getting our hands on ALEPH's new AC45. We will be able to sail it for the first time around 21st July and we then have about two weeks to learn about it and the new race course format in Cascais before the competition starts.

'We know that some of the teams have a significant amount of experience on the AC45 already. We have a simple but ambitious agenda with the America’s Cup World Series in Cascais. Our hopes are to go as far as possible in the match racing part and to enjoy the fleet racing series, where everybody has a chance of winning a race.'


Wang Chaoyong, Chairman, China Team (CHN)

'We are currently actively recruiting Chinese sailors through a series of training camps all over China, and at the same time, our existing team is training with Olympic multihull medalists on the China Team AC45 boat to ensure that we are ready to compete in the first World Series in August. ??

'China Team truly represents the spirit of sports in China, even though we are new to the world of sailing, we will be ready to compete against the best sailing teams in the world for the most prestigious sailing sports trophy.'


James Spithill, Helmsman, ORACLE Racing Boat No. 4 (USA)

'We're looking forward to lining up against the teams entered in the 34th America's Cup. It's a first for all of us. The America's Cup World Series will really make fans sit up and take notice.'