Ten international sailing teams, including three from the host nation Italy, will gather on the waterfront at the Porto Arsenale in La Maddalena this evening for the opening ceremony of the Louis Vuitton Trophy La Maddalena.
A cannon shot and the raising of the Italian national flag by an honour guard comprised of Italian navy sailors accompanied by representatives of all ten teams will signal the official opening.
The Mediterranean’s famous mistral has eased and the ceremony will take place in soft, warm evening breezes after a hot, sunny, cloudless day. The now-traditional press conference will follow on the adjacent stage that is set below the outdoor jumbo television for public viewing.
The teams will race on four equalised America’s Cup Class boats supplied by the event – ITA 90, ITA 99, USA 87 and USA 98. Two of the boats, flying event flags and banners, were moored at docks flanking the flag-raising ceremony.
Eight countries are represented amongst the ten competing teams. The teams are:
Aleph, FRA, skipper Bertrand Pace
All4One, FRA/GER, skipper Jochen Schümann
Artemis, SWE, skipper Paul Cayard
Azzurra, ITA, skipper Francesco Bruni
BMW ORACLE Racing, USA, skipper James Spithill
Emirates Team New Zealand, NZL, skipper Dean Barker
Luna Rossa, ITA, skipper Ed Baird
Mascalzone Latino Audi Team, ITA, skipper Gavin Brady
Synergy, RUS, skipper Karol Jablonski
TEAMORIGIN, GBR, skipper Ben Ainslie
Mrs Liliana Lorettu will welcome the sailors and the sponsors on behalf of the region. Admiral Spagnuolo of the Italian navy will speak, as will Yves Carcelle, president of Louis Vuitton.
Speaking before the ceremony, Vincenzo Onorato, Chairman of Mascalzone Latino Team, said with a smile: “To host the Louis Vuitton Trophy La Maddalena was my idea and, standing here today, for once in my life I must say I was right. I’ve known this area well, since I was a kid and when I saw the new Arsenale I was pleasantly aware it is the best place possible to host a Louis Vuitton Trophy. We can expect light winds this weekend but after that, anything can happen.”
Paul Cayard, Chairman of the World Sailing Teams Association and skipper of the Swedish boat ARTEMIS, paid special tribute to the Italian teams. "Italy is passionate about sailing and the America's Cup,” Cayard said. “As evidence of this interest, three Italian teams are racing here; Luna Rossa, AZZURRA and Mascalzone Latino Audi Team. Sardinia is an iconic Italian venue for sailing and I am confident that the Louis Vuitton Trophy will be a spectacular event."
Emirates Team New Zealand won the Louis Vuitton Trophy Auckland but skipper Dean Barker was cautious about his team’s chances, despite a victory last week at the Audi MedCup in Cascais, Portugal. “La Maddalena is an interesting venue,” Barker said. “Race courses will be laid inside a number of islands so we are expecting conditions to be tricky. We will be racing in two Mascalzone Latino and two BMW Oracle Racing boats. For the past two days we have spent some time learning how to sail them. Conditions have ranged from extremely light to heavy; bright sunshine to thunder, lightning and heavy rain. The challenge for us is to discover in a short space of time just what makes these boats go . . . and what they don’t like.”
American Ed Baird, sailing for a new team as skipper of the Italian team Luna Rossa, said: “These boats are great. They make for close racing and it’s going to be exciting competition. We have a real blend of people sailing on our team this week and it’s going to be fun to learn some new styles. We know there are a few teams that are on top of the heap right now. Emirates Team New Zealand is very strong. The BMW Oracle guys are very good. Mascalzone Latino had a good event in Auckland. Azzurra is sailing very well this year. We have a big hill to climb to catch up to those guys in a short amount of time.”
Francesco Bruni, skipper and helmsman of Azzurra, said: “We just completed three great days of training, with variable wind conditions, including some violent thunderstorms which caught us head on! We noticed that all the teams went into these training sessions with great determination, pushing to the limit and taking many risks, which confirms the great level of experience of all the crews. The scenery in La Maddalena, as expected, is absolutely stunning. The mood of Team Azzurra is high. We are confident that we did all we could to be prepared for this event and we are eager to start racing. The guys are excited, the group is strong and we have just the right amount of adrenalin to start."
Complete coverage, including live streaming Virtual Eye tracking of each race of the Louis Vuitton Trophy La Maddalena is available at http://www.louisvuittontrophy.com. News, results and features are accessible in English, Italian, French and Russian and include extensive photography and video.
Racing is scheduled to start each day with a warning signal at 10:00 local time (GMT+2).