Alinghi AC33 catamaran hits Lake Geneva

On July 8 Alinghi 5 arrived on on Lake Geneva via the world’s most powerful helicopter, the Russian-built Mil Mi-26, which airlifted the massive cat from its build hanger in Villeneuve, Switzerland to the fabled Swiss lake. The catamaran was unveiled earlier in the month, on July 4th, and will be transported, again by helicopter, to the Med later this month. On August 8, Alinghi must announce the location for the Cup’s 33rd defense.

The behemoth boat has been designed to fight out the upcoming Deed of Gift Challenge, which will be contested in “90-foot by 90-foot” multi-hulls, in February 2010. The only other contestant in this DoG match is the Golden Gate Yacht Club’s BMW/Oracle trimaran. This vessel, which will be helmed by James Spithill and skippered by the all-conquering Russell Coutts, the most successful America’s Cup skipper in history, will be hard to beat.

Alinghi’s new cat has a pair of structural braces connecting the hulls. The forward-most crossbeam looks to be at roughly the halfway point of the boat’s LOA, with a second supporting strut near the stern. The boat features dreadnaught-style bows, a massive beam, a huge bowsprit, and looks extremely fast. The big question, of course, is whether it will be faster than the BWM/Oracle trimaran.

BMW/Oracle launched its trimaran some 11 months ago, so the Alinghi team is notably behind the curve with its boat, no doubt due to the drawn-out legal wrangling. The legal battle over the fate of the 33rd America’s Cup has been a two-year affair that’s left many AC fans confused and many pro sailors out of work.

The Alinghi crew are now up against a serious time clock. They will need to shake out any bugs in the system, learn to sail their boat, and also learn its limits. BMW Oracle has had a big time advantage, but rumors abound that both camps plan substantial modifications to their boats before the upcoming showdown.

Once Alinghi has concluded their Lake Geneva trials, they will airlift the catamaran to the Med in early August. The team plans to be sailing by the middle-to late July, but with loads as powerful as the ones that this boat will generate, it will be interesting to see if Ernesto Bertarelli and crew wasted precious time in court (where they lost most of those battles), instead of sailing. Of interest: both camps are expected to arrive with multiple masts and sailplans, depending on the conditions.

Which begs another question: where will this match take place? Again, this is a question for Bertarelli, which he will address on of before August 8. But judging by the size of these massive boats and the staggering loads generated by their sailplans, neither camp is looking for a big-breeze venue. Currently, Valencia is a top candidate amongst Cup pundits, but whispers are also afloat that it could be contested in the Middle East or South America.

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