Thursday, November 06, 2008

Presentation of the 2nd Desafío Trophy

[Note: My apologies for this late report but I've had problems with the mp3 file from the press conference. Some users might be unable to listen to it but the most important parts are found in the article]

The second edition of the Desafío Trohpy was presented this morning in Valencia, in the Desafío base. The regatta is organized by the Club Náutico Español de Vela (CNEV) and will take place from tomorrow Friday until next Sunday, off Valencia's coast. There are around 70 cruising boat already registered and for the first time, 4 America's Cup teams will also race. Desafío, Alinghi, Team Origin and Luna Rossa will hit the start line in the well known Malvarosa race area after more than 15 months of virtual inactivity, as far as the America's Cup is concerned.

For anyone even remotely interested in the America's Cup, this is not just any regatta. It is the annual regatta organized by the CNEV (current Challenger of Record) and as such it steals the spotlight. It is also the key issue in the current litigation, mainly its timing, as its first edition took place AFTER the newly-created CNEV challenged Alinghi in July 2007. This website will not try to opine on whether CNEV is a valid yacht club to present a challenge in the America's Cup but tries to report on what was said as accurately as possible. After all, Justice Cahn decided it was not a valid yacht club only to see his decision overturned by the Court of Appeals.

Skippers briefing at the presentation of the 2nd Desafío Trophy. From left, Javier Moner (representing the 70 amateur boats), Robert Scheidt (Luna Rossa strategist), Ben Ainslie (Team Origin helmsman), Murray Jones (Alinghi strategist), Laureano Wizner (Desafío helmsman) and Manuel Chirivella (CNEV president)

The opening speech was made by Manuel Chirivella, president of the CNEV and vice-president of the Spanish Sailing Federation (RFEV). I wouldn't say he sounded victorious but with an appeal court win under his belt, Chirivella was definitely more confident than in previous public appearances. He mentioned there were around 70 cruising yachts already registered and, of course, stressed the fact that 4 America's Cup teams would race for the first time.

Laureano Wizner, 2nd helmsman of Desafío, was the first skipper to talk to the journalists. Paul Cayard was scheduled to helm the Spanish boat but since he has problems finding flights to return to Valencia, according to Wizner, he will steer ESP-97 until Cayard comes back.

On behalf of Alinghi spoke Murray Jones. Although his usual role in the America's Cup Defender is strategist, Jones will be helming SUI-100 during the Desafío Trophy since Ed Baird is taking part in another regatta. According to Jones, the crew is a little rusty but it is a nice feeling to "get the boys back together" and sail on SUI-100 once again.

Practice race on the eve of the 2nd Desafío Trophy. Valencia, 6 November 2008. Photo copyright Carlo Borlenghi

Next in turn was Ben Ainslie, 3-time Olympic gold medalist and Team Origin helmsman. As it was expected, he thanked Desafío for lending their boat and defined this regatta as a "huge learning opportunity" since it will be the first time they take part in an official regatta as a team.

Finally, Robert Scheidt spoke on behalf of Luna Rossa. The Brazilian silver Star medalist in Qingdao is the strategist of the Italian team, while Peter Holmberg will helm ITA-94. Scheidt is a newcomer to Luna Rossa, as is a part of the crew that will be a mixture of new and familiar faces and will also make its maiden appearance after more than a year and the departure of James Spithill and other key members to BMW Oracle. Scheidt expressed his gratitude to the CNEV for organizing the regatta and stated the team was once again motivated to race.

[Note: According to the Bitter End Yacht Club website, Cayard and Baird are currently racing in the 2008 Pro Am Regatta in the British Virgin Islands]

Start of the practice race. Valencia, 6 November 2008. Photo copyright Carlo Borlenghi

Given the controversial nature of CNEV it was more than natural that the majority of questions asked by the journalists present in the conference room would focus on the Challenger of Record. According to CNEV's statute, it is located in the Desafío base. As a result, an obvious question from one journalist, was whether at some stage the CNEV will have its own facilities, such as buildings or pontoons where its members could dock their yachts. According to Chirivella, there is another example of a well-known yacht club that uses third-party facilities, the Yacht Club of Monaco.

Another question touched the timing of the final judicial decision and whether any of the parties would still have the right to appeal. The journalist erroneously asked when we should expect Justice Cahn's final decision only to be interrupted by Chirivella who jokingly said that "Cahn is out, the same person that never makes any mistakes and always wins his cases, has nothing to do now". According to Chirivella, unless BMW Oracle withdraws the lawsuit, we should expect a decision during the 2nd quarter of 2009.

The final question and its reply were probably the funniest part of the whole press conference. Just like any other yacht club in the world, members have the right to use its facilities, together with their families, for social activities. As a result, commented one of the journalists, some time in the future we should expect to see families, children and guests wondering around the base. "That's true", replied Chirivella. Of course, the obvious follow up question was whether an America's Cup base is ready to have people dining, walking and children playing while sailors and the shore crew are working on the boats. "That's a possibility", answered Chirivella.

Regardless of whether Desafío installs a swimming pool on the rooftop of the boatshed it is great to see the America's Cup Port buzzing once again, even if it's with only 4 teams.

MP3 file of the presentation

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