America’s Cup World Series racing will get underway in Naples on Wednesday afternoon, with Dean Barker’s Emirates Team New Zealand crew clinging to a one point lead on the overall series leaderboard over Oracle Racing Spithill.
Luna Ross in action with Emirates Team NZ
Two new Luna Rossa crews, sailing on home waters, are expected to be near the front of the fleet this week, while Artemis Racing, currently third, will be keen to improve on its podium position, with Oracle Racing'd Darren Bundock trying to knock them off.
Team Korea, skippered by multiple world champion Nathan Outteridge will be pushing hard, as will Energy Team, looking to consolidate on gains made in the last regatta in San Diego. China Team, with new skipper Fred Le Peutrec, is coming fresh off a training camp in Sanya, China, and could surprise here in Italy.
Local support in Naples for the event has been incredible, with Paolo Graziano, the President of the local organizing committee, estimating the crowd along the waterfront over the course of a sunny holiday Monday at nearly 250,000.
Over the Easter weekend, Yves Carcelle, the CEO of Louis Vuitton, a 30-year partner of the America’s Cup, had the opportunity to sail as a guest racer on board the AC45 wing-sailed catamarans.
America's Cup Trophy
'It’s much more sport now on the AC45s than it was on the monohulls,' he said, after getting a close up view of the action. 'Today it is a young man’s game to sail these boats. On board, the five crew have to be very, very fit. The movement and speed just never stops. It’s permanent action. At the end of the day, the sailors must be totally exhausted.'
Championship Racing at the AC World Series in Naples runs from April 11-15. Live streaming coverage (subject to territorial broadcast agreements) is available here.
Paolo Graziano, President of AC Napoli, the Local Organizing Committee: I want to thank the crews and all the people who believed in this city. I think that we have performed really well, beyond expectations, in terms of the organization and the venue. Naples is showing the best of itself. I hope that, through this event, Naples can be seen for what it is: a beautiful city and an amazing place to hold important sporting events like the AC World Series.
Iain Murray, Regatta Director, 34th America's Cup: On behalf of all the America's Cup teams and organization, I want to thank Naples and all of the organizations who have come together to put on this event. This is a magnificent venue for sailing and we're looking forward to some very exciting racing this week. What Naples has done with the opening ceremony and the Race Village and the way the people have come out to support our event is fantastic. It's bigger and better than anything we expected - thank you.
Dean Barker, skipper, Emirates Team New Zealand: (Sailing the AC45s) is great, it's a different challenge to what we've experienced in the past. The adrenalin from sailing these boats in a big breeze is very hard to explain, but coming in after a day’s sailing it's pretty hard not to have a big smile on your face.
James Spithill, skipper, Oracle Racing Spithill: The game has changed, the racing is right next to the shore. It was exciting yesterday (Monday) to see the crowds and I think they will be even bigger next weekend. The exciting thing for the sailors is you can hear people cheering. It's like being in a stadium. That's one of the coolest things, to go around the course and hear people cheering… The Italian fans are the best in the world and they'll make this event fantastic.
Terry Hutchinson, skipper, Artemis Racing: Over the past couple of days we've had a lot of weather and rain moving through, so with the mountain behind the race course it wreaks havoc. But the forecast is more for the traditional sea breeze we were after. I think it's going to be a very challenging race course with all of the geographic effects around here. But that's part of the challenge, other than the other eight boats on the course, we have to deal with the weather. This will be one of those courses where the race isn't over until you get across the finishing line.
America's Cup Competitors with the AC trophy
Darren Bundock, skipper, Oracle Racing Bundock: We've had some very good racing in practice in San Francisco (against Oracle Racing Spithill), a little too intense at times, as we had that collision. But now there are eight teams we have to beat. We're fourth overall so we need to get past Emirates Team New Zealand and Artemis Racing and if we can beat all these other teams here that means we've got Jimmy as well and we'd be happy with that.
Nathan Outteridge, skipper, Team Korea: I saw that Russell Coutts had posted on Facebook that ‘America’s Cup – Speed Trials’ (the iphone and ipad app) was out, so I had a spare few minutes and downloaded it. I was thinking I haven't had much practice on the real boats, so I'd practice on the game at least. I've got my time down around 31 seconds now, so I've improved about four seconds. I need to get out on the water practicing, but this is the next best thing.
Yann Guichard, helmsman, Energy Team: I hope we are ready. We didn't train on the AC45 in the winter, but individually we continued to sail in our own projects. Loick Peyron set a new record for fastest around the world. And on my side I launched the MOD70 and I've been sailing five days a week since January and there's also been an opportunity for the Energy Team crew to come and train on board the 70 foot trimaran with me.
Fred Le Peutrec, skipper, China Team: It’s a great opportunity we have to sail on these fantastic boats, against these great teams. It's only our fifth day on the boat all together. We're still a very new team, there is only one guy who was with us last year sailing on the boat so we are working step by step, concentrating on manoeuvres and our own work on board more than the results - we'll see after.
Max Sirena, skipper, Luna Rossa: I started my career working on the bow, and now I'm in the cockpit with an important role: It's a big honor for me and it's time to show if I can live up to that. It's a new era and you need the best athletes to be among the best. I was with Oracle Racing during the last America's Cup, so I have some experience with the wing and one of my jobs is to transmit that to the crew.
Chris Draper, helmsman, Luna Rossa: I think the biggest thing for Paul and me is (adjusting to) the enormity of the Luna Rossa experience. The support we've received is amazing and we're grateful for that, but it does raise expectations a little bit. We have some very wise and smart people in our team who are quick to point out this is our first event, we have not raced in the AC World Series as a team, so we're trying to keep our expectations in check.
Paul Campbell-James, helmsman Luna Rossa: The AC45 and the Extreme 40 are very different boats. The style of racing is similar - close and tight, fast racing, but the boats are the biggest change. What gives us confidence is that Yann (Guichard) and Chris (Draper) have done a lot of their catamaran sailing in the Extreme 40s and they did very well in the AC World Series last year, so that gives us a bit of confidence.
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