April 2, 2007 Since 1851, the America's Cup has transcended the sport of sailing to become a symbol of the pursuit of excellence. For the first 133 years, THE CUP was indeed the America’s Cup, as America had a grasp on the trophy which could not be broken until Ben Lexcen’s winged keel helped Australia II to victory in 1983. Since then the event has become truly global and this year we’ll see the 32nd America's Cup Match between the defender, Alinghi, and a new challenger beginning June 23, 2007. Racing starts tomorrow to begin sorting out who the defender will be and yesterday was an important day – the day when all 12 contenders had to drop the protective skirts that had been guarding the underbodies of their race boats. Although there were no visible breakthrough design innovations on the scale of the fabled winged keel, many observers were astonished by the range of solutions to the same basic design question posed by the America's Cup Class Rule.
Racing for the 32nd America's Cup began with a series of Louis Vuitton Acts in 2004, 2005 and 2006 across Europe. It will end in 2007. Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 13 - Fleet Racing - (April 3 to 7) precedes the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger selection series (April 16 - June 12).
With 19 boats unveiling at once, and the updated Port America's Cup ready to welcome visitors, the day took on a tone of celebration as the public were invited to the team bases, where sailors and designers from other teams could be seen taking the measure of the competition.
"Walking around the place, I am surprised that there are so many configurations around the teams, basically because we thought we'd done a pretty good job with (closing up) the Rule," said Rolf Vrolijk, the lead designer of Alinghi. "We thought the boats would all be the same. But it's not like that and we see clearly that the different design groups and teams have opted for different directions, and I think that makes it a bit more interesting."
Among the more visually clear differences were those seen in the size, shape and configuration of the keel bulbs on different boats. Some teams, like Emirates Team New Zealand, sported a short, fat bulb on one boat, and a long, thin, 'cigar' style bulb on the other. Luna Rossa showed off a radical hull underbody on ITA 94, which was marked by hard angles, slab sides and a flat bottom.
The 'unveiling' theme also applied to Port America's Cup, where many of the new entertainment activities, restaurants, bars and cafés opened for the first time on Sunday. A large turnout of public came to enjoy the festivities ahead of racing in Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 13, which is scheduled to begin on Tuesday afternoon.
Later today, the 12 skippers will attend a press conference to give their views on the upcoming decisive season of the 32nd America's Cup.