|VALENCIA, SPAIN-(11-5-2005) The close of April brought a flurry of activity at the Valencia headquarters of the America's Cup as the final challenge deadline passed on the 29th of April. Two new teams became challengers, both from countries that have never before sailed a race at the America's Cup. The 10 countries represented at the 32nd America's Cup bring the competition into direct contact with five continents for the first time.
The first to become official was the United Internet Team Germany, formerly known as the Fresh 17 project. With Jesper Bank skippering the team, this will become the first campaign from Germany to get on the water in an America's Cup race when competition begins in June. The team will need to work fast to acquire a boat and convert it to Version 5 of the America's Cup Class rule, but Team Germany will sail in Valencia on June 16th, adding another fresh perspective on the America's Cup.
Similarly, Team China brings an entirely new part of the world into the America's Cup. The world's most populous country and a growing economic powerhouse, China could no longer resist the lure of the oldest and most prestigious trophy in the world. The team has made a smart decision in its affiliation with Le Défi, a challenger in the past two America's Cups. This should allow China Team to leapfrog many of the steps new teams often face as the experience and technical expertise of the French as well as the two Le Défi boats give them a head start.
More teams in Spain
With the first Louis Vuitton Acts of 2005 fast approaching, more teams are arriving in Valencia. Recently Team Alinghi and K-Challenge both held public welcoming ceremonies.
The Defender, Team Alinghi, whose victory in Auckland brought the Cup to Europe, had a ceremony marking their official move to Valencia at the town hall. Greeted by Rita Barberá, the Mayoress of Valencia, and Francisco Camps, President of the Valencia region, the ceremony marked the engraving of the last line commemorating their victory on the America's Cup.
K-Challenge then had its second Version 5 boat, the former Cup winning NZL-60, christened by French music legend Johnny Hallyday during a ceremony at the French training base in Gandia.
Racing off Valencia
Meanwhile the training on the waters off Valencia, like the weather, is heating up. There are over half a dozen boats sailing most days with Team Alinghi, BMW ORACLE Racing, +39, Luna Rossa and Desafío Español all training. K-Challenge is out as well, just an hour to the South. In fact, Alinghi and BMW ORACLE Racing have set a course and raced a few times, a re-match of the 2003 Louis Vuitton Cup final. But to this point, they're keeping the results secret.
That's not the only racing happening either. To start the month, 12 of 14 teams entered in an event on the elite match racing circuit were representatives of America's Cup teams (with some AC competitors sending more than one team). So when the 2005 season opens with the Valencia Louis Vuitton Act next month, all the teams should be sharp and ready to go.