Friday, August 24, 2007

Manolo Ruiz de Elvira signs as designer for BMW Oracle

This is NOT a rumor!

The former Alinghi designer, Spaniard Manolo Ruiz de Elvira, was spotted yesterday evening in the lobby of Hotel Boca do Rio at around 9pm in Portimao, Portugal signing various documents together with Russell Coutts, CEO of BMW Oracle.

Coutts, together with tens of other professional sailors, is currently racing in the Portugal Trophy, the TP52 regatta that is taking place in the Portuguese city.

When approached by Spanish journalist Nacho Gomez (sailing editor of Marca, Spain's largest sports newspaper) that witnessed the scene, Ruiz de Elvira confirmed he was set free by the Defender of the America's Cup and joined Larry Ellison's (still officially unrecognized) challenge. What he didn't want to comment on was his role in the American team. It isn't known whether he will be the principal designer or work alongside Farr.

According to Gomez and various other journalists and sailors, earlier in the morning, before the start of the races, Coutts was sitting at the exact same table with various members of Valle Romano Mean Machine. The crew of the Dutch TP52 team is staying at the same hotel and according to unconfirmed reports, Dirk de Ridder was one of the sailors that also signed documents with Coutts.

Dirk de Ridder's sister, Anne-Marie, happens to be John Kostecki's wife. Kostecki announced last week his resignation from the position of skipper from the Ericsson Racing Team due to family reasons. It is speculated that his move was related to his possible incorporation in BMW Oracle.

Having said all that, the million-euro question is what big name is Coutts going to sign as helmsman. Two weeks ago we got it wrong, saying it was to be Dean Barker. This time around we think it's almost safe to say it's James Spithill. You have all the right to blame us but we hear the young Australian helmsman signed with the American team earlier in August and a handful of ex-Luna Rossa sailors joined him as well.

Sailing starts to look like the NBA, NFL or European football with big-name transfers from one team to another. Surely Larry Ellison will spare no expenses in trying to secure the best available talent for his team.

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