Fri, Jun 22, 2007 - Page 23 News List

Alinghi faces tough challenge from NZ at America's Cup

AFP , VALENCIA, SPAIN

The 32nd America's Cup, sailing's most prestigious competition, starts tomorrow with Swiss defender Alinghi facing a tough test from challenger Emirates Team New Zealand.

The Kiwis will be gunning for revenge after Alinghi swept them aside 5-0 in 2003 and recent form points to some close encounters in the best-of-nine series that runs from tomorrow through July 7.

Since that whitewash four years ago, Emirates Team New Zealand have notched up a 6-4 win tally over Alinghi.

Last year, they met five times and Alinghi won just once, although it is important to point out that the Kiwis were sailing their first new boat (NZL 84) and the Swiss their old boat (SUI 75).

"We're pretty much ready to go racing," Emirates Team New Zealand principal Grant Dalton said.

"The shore team is putting the finishing touches to the boats. For everyone else, it's important to have a little more down time because the next few weeks is going to very intense," he said.

But the Kiwis, victors of the Auld Mug in 1995 and 2000, were in impressive form in the Louis Vuitton Cup, the pre-final event in which 11 competing teams were trimmed to just one challenger.

They were the top ranked team after the round robin stage with 17 wins out of 20, and went on to beat Desafio Espanol 5-2 in the semi-final and whitewash Luna Rossa 5-0 in the final, leaving them with a win tally of 27 in their 32 races.

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