by Keith Taylor
NZL-82 sails past downtown Auckland
Louis Vuitton announced today that the company is planning an international match racing regatta to be sailed in Auckland, New Zealand in February next year.
The 'Louis Vuitton Pacific Series' is being organized in association with the New Zealand Government, Emirates Team New Zealand, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS), and Auckland City
Over the last 25 years, Louis Vuitton has associated its name with the America’s Cup, helping to bring this historical sporting event into the 21st century.
All the sailing teams that have participated in previous Louis Vuitton Cup regattas have been invited to compete in the Auckland regatta from January 31 to February 14, 2009.
Organisers will select between six and eight teams, on a 'first come, first served’’ basis, to participate in this friendly series of races.
In order to ensure a level playing field, all participating teams will compete aboard Emirates Team New Zealand yachts. The two boats are very similar in performance. Some configuration changes will be made to ensure a level playing field.
Three races are planned every day on a two-mile windward-leeward course laid at the mouth of Waitemata Harbour between Rangitoto Island and Orakei wharf.
Yves Carcelle, C.E.O of Louis Vuitton explained that: 'The Auckland event is neither competing with the America‘s Cup, nor is it part of the next edition of the America’s Cup. The Louis Vuitton Cup, awarded to the top challenging syndicate since 1983, will not be at stake during the event. A Louis Vuitton trophy will be created especially for this regatta.'
In Auckland, Emirates Team New Zealand managing director Grant Dalton said the team’s role, apart from preparing the yachts for racing, was only that of a competitor.
'The sailing team welcomes the opportunity to get back on the water as a complete unit against some top opposition,' he said. 'The regatta will be a big event for Auckland. The action will take place over three weekends to give Aucklanders a chance to see the big boats and top teams fight it out.'
Dalton said that ETNZ would do everything it could to make its two yachts totally competitive. 'We know the yachts’ relative performance very well and even though they’re close, we know what can to be done to make them even more so.
'The organisers are looking at having a daily draw to decide which yacht the teams will sail that day. Over the course of the regatta they should all race both boats.'
RNZYS Commodore Scott Colebrook welcomed Louis Vuitton’s initiative. 'The RNZYS is looking forward to having Louis Vuitton back in Auckland and the Squadron will do everything it can to make the series a success. Planning for operations on the water has already commenced. The concept is excellent, the sailing venue is ideal and we eagerly anticipate hosting some great sailing.
Prime Minister Helen Clark said: 'Congratulations to Louis Vuitton and Emirates Team New Zealand for organising this exciting international yachting event. New Zealand is very pleased to be hosting this regatta and Auckland with its beautiful harbour and vibrant inner city will put on a fantastic show for yachting fans and tourists.'
Mayor of Auckland John Banks said the high caliber event will be another opportunity to showcase the city to the world. 'We want this to be an event that not only establishes Auckland as a desirable major events destination, but also provides three weekends of great entertainment for Aucklanders,' the Mayor said.
Bruno Troublé, spokesperson for Louis Vuitton, said there had been an enthusiastic response from many of the teams invited to the event.
Louis Vuitton Pacific Series sponsors - Louis Vuitton Pacific Series