Team Alinghi, the Swiss challenge for the 2003 America's Cup, has begun a key phase in its build-up: training at its state-of-the-art base in New Zealand.
All the members of the team, their two Class America yachts and ten tons of equipment have arrived in Auckland, and training in the Gulf of Hauraki is already begun.
The team is training six days a week at the specially constructed base, which was designed by the Swiss architect Ugo Brunoni
"This is an important stage," says Michel Bonnefous, the team's executive director.
"We can now start improving our performance so that we are in top form by October 2002," he added. The Louis Vuitton Cup, the qualifying competition for the America's Cup, begins in October 2002.
"Being able to train on board the two boats is crucial for the development of our programme," says Russell Coutts, the Team Alinghi skipper, who led Team New Zealand to victory in the last two America's Cups.
It is vital to see the two yachts, SUI-64 and SUI-59, in racing conditions to assess what technical alterations need to be made. The final decision on what form the Alinghi vessel takes when it lines up for the Louis Vuitton Cup has yet to be made.
Another Alinghi vessel is being built in the New Year. It has not been excluded that two different boats could be used in the competition, each suited to different weather conditions.
The training session on Tuesday was the first time SUI-64 had come into contact with the water.
"This boat is full of innovations, and we were all highly motivated at the idea of being able to sail her at last, and finally to put our ideas to the test," Coutts said.
"Our first impressions are excellent and I have faith in the future," he added.
by Roy Probert
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