ACC Racing — in Valencia?

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Is the America’s Cup saved? No. Sadly, the battle of the ego-heavy billionaires continues, with neither side showing any signs of backing down, even though the Socit Nautique de Genve/Alinghi has won an important victory by having Desafo Espaol, Club Nutico Espaol de Vela reinstated as the official challenger of record (BMX/Oracle of course claims that Desafo Espaol, Club Nutico Espaol de Vela is simply a hoax club, designed solely for the benefit of the SNG/Alinghi in order to have a “soft” challenger of record; for their part, SNG/Alinghi has asked BMW/Oracle to drop their lawsuit). But, while the big guys with the big payrolls duke it out, sailors have been out of work, equipment manufacturers have seen reduced work orders, and the Cup itself seems a bit tarnished by the angst of the situation.

But there is some relief to sailors worldwide who love to watch and follow world-class match racing in ACC class boats. This week marks the start of the Desafo Trophy, which is Club Nutico Espanol de Vela's second annual regatta, (November 7 - 9), an event that will see four teams — Alinghi, Team Origin, Desafo, and Luna Rosa — battling it out in Version 5 America’s Cup Class boats. This marks the first time that these many ACC class boats have lined up since the dramatic finish of the 32nd America’s Cup, which also ended in Valencia, in the summer of 2007. Also ahead for match-racing fans is the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series, which will be held in Auckland, New Zealand, during January and February of 2009. This second event will likely attract more teams than this week's regatta. A solution? No, but it’s a start.

So, as it has for some time, the Cup still hangs in the balance of the courts. But, should CNG/Alinghi emerge as the legal winner, it is very likely that a new class of boats – smaller, faster, less expensive than the proposed 90-foot class that had been kicked around last fall — will be used to contest the 33rd Cup. Meetings between all key plays (sans BMW/Oracle) have taken place, and there seems to be collective agreement that this new class is a good thing for the players. For sailors and industry alike, this is good news, especially if the net result is excellent racing of the sort that we enjoyed last summer.

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