The first championship races in 2012 in the America’s Cup World Series are scheduled to begin in just under three weeks, on April 11, on the waters off Naples, Italy.
As the crews make their final preparations, Oracle Racing skipper Jimmy Spithill, who has previously raced for the Italian Luna Rossa team from 2004-2007, says he thinks the Italian fans will be blown away by the new-look America’s Cup – with short course racing in exciting and fast wing-sailed catamarans, all within shouting distance of the crowds on the shoreline.
'The Italian fans are some of the most passionate in the world. They are devoted, emotional, die-hard fans who really enjoy the competition,' he said. 'I'm very excited about getting there and experiencing it again… I think people will really enjoy the show. It's a new game, it's a lot more exciting and I think the Italians will love it.'
Today, a revised format for the event has been issued which provides a balanced schedule of match racing, fleet racing and speed trials across the five days of competition that climaxes on Sunday April 15 when the winner of the Naples Fleet Race Championship is crowned.
Two things stand out in the new format – each fleet race, at 35 minutes, is longer than in prior events, and the Fleet Racing Championship will be determined by performance across all nine scheduled races, as opposed to the previous, winner-take-all race on the final Sunday.
With all of the fleet races counting towards the final score, teams will need to be at the top of their game from the first start gun. Each race is critical to remain in contention for the Championship heading into Sunday’s big finale.
Regatta Director Iain Murray issued the changes to the format: 'The fleet race on the final Sunday (April 15) is the most valuable race on the schedule in terms of points, with the scoring heavily weighted to that last race. But now, all of the other fleet races will also count towards determining the overall Fleet Racing Champion in Naples. We think this strikes a good balance between rewarding consistently strong performances over the five days of racing, as well as energizing the crews and fans alike with a critical final race on Sunday.
'And although the individual fleet races are longer in duration, the race courses themselves will remain very tight, placing a premium on boat-handling and crew work,' Murray explained. 'The race may last longer, but the pressure on the crews remains intense.'
The match races will remain short and sharp with a target time of 15-minutes. Teams will race for three days to advance through to Saturday’s one-race showdown for the Match Racing Championship. But here too, the format is unforgiving – crews must win to advance. With a single loss meaning elimination, upsets could be on the cards.
Meanwhile, the construction project necessary to accommodate the event in Naples is proceeding on schedule, with the infrastructure expected to be ready for the first week of April, when some of the teams will begin sailing ahead of ‘open training’ over the weekend of April 7-8. The Championship racing starts on Wednesday April 11th. Shore side, the public Race Village in Naples will be open from April 7 through 15, with public entertainment each night.
by America's Cup World Series
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1:27 AM Fri 23 Mar 2012GMT
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