Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Counting down to the battle for the Auld Mug

Competition resumes in Valencia this weekend, as the two remaining America's Cup challengers battle it out for the right to challenge for the Auld Mug, in the Louis Vuitton series.

Emirates Team New Zealand and Italian syndicate Luna Rossa Challenge were very evenly matched in round robin racing, but the Italians seemed to find another gear in their semi-finals against former favourite, American team Oracle Racing.

Yachting commentators believe Luna Rossa made some successful modifications to its boat to give it an edge in those races, and it remains to be seen whether the team has more changes up its sleeve to help it power ahead of Team New Zealand.

The kiwi team are also playing it quiet when it comes to the issue of modifications, and like Luna Rossa will be cautious about giving away all their secrets in the Louis Vuitton Cup Final, with America's Cup defenders Alinghi still the ultimate goal for both teams.

Luna Rossa navigator Tom Schnackenberg was syndicate head for Team NZ, during their poor defence campaign in 2003. The veteran's competing in his 10th America's Cup campaign, and is keen to beat his countrymen in the race to challenge Alinghi.

Much of the focus will be on the helmsmen at the starts, with the pressure of New Zealand's Dean Barker to outwit Aussie James Spithill, who is helming Luna Rossa's boat.

Opinion seems divided on just which syndicate and boat has the edge, although one commentator claims Alinghi is already focusing on Luna Rossa's racing style, suggesting the Italians are expecting the Kiwis to sink during the "first to 5" Louis Vuitton series.

* NZ Herald: Schnackenberg out to beat Team New Zealand
* NZ Herald: Alinghi may have broken rudder
* Official Website: 32nd America's Cup

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