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Alinghi leads with Italian charge in Valencia

Alinghi leads with Italians making a charge in Valencia

Valencia, 20 May, 2006 - There were perfect conditions for racing today and in the first fleet race of the day, the Swiss Alinghi team raced away from the fleet to extend its lead at the top of the table. But Luna Rossa won the second race of the day to close the gap and claim second place on the leaderboard.

They weren't the only Italians making noise on the day; Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia Team had two good finishes in the top five and is sitting equal fourth on points on the leaderboard.

The solid 15-knot Southeasterly, the sunny skies and the large 300-strong spectator fleet filled in a beautiful picture on the waters off Valencia, providing a change of pace from the light conditions of the past week.

A fireworks show at 22:00 this evening in the America's Cup Park will put an exclamation point on the weekend, before the final fleet race on Sunday closes the action in Louis Vuitton Act 11.

RACE THREE
The start was far more challenging today with the stronger winds raising the stakes for any mistake. But in the event, it was a clean start with nearly every boat hard on the line with speed as the start gun fired.

China Team and +39 Challenge were fast off the line at the pin end, while closer to the Race Committee boat it was Alinghi, Victory Challenge and United Internet Team Germany who looked good. The Spanish team, Desafío Español had a poor start, very late to the line, and immediately tacked out to the right, trailing the fleet early.

Luna Rossa was also in difficulty early, and when they tacked they crossed behind the majority of the fleet. Alinghi, BMW ORACLE Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand opted for the left side of the race course where the Kiwis were forced above the layline to find clear air behind the others.

Alinghi led around and BMW ORACLE Racing was able to find a clear lane to tack, while the Kiwis had a more difficult time with +39 charging in on the privileged starboard tack ahead of them, and Luna Rossa managing to slide inside them at the rounding.

Down the run, the South Africans were the first to gybe out to seek clear air, while Alinghi led the majority of the fleet down the middle. Well out on the left were the Kiwis with Desafío Español well behind them.

The leeward gate featured boats going through bow to stern, splitting sides of the course. After being forced to the left buoy, the Emirates squad quickly changed sides and went out to the far right of the course where the picked up a couple more places on the fleet. Alinghi flew up the middle of the race course while BMW ORACLE Racing and Shosholoza had a more difficult time on the left.

Around the top mark for the second time, the Swiss were in control while the Kiwis would battle with Luna Rossa and BMW ORACLE Racing all the way down the run - the teams finishing overlapped in that order. Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia sailed to a strong fifth place, ahead of Shosholoza who barely held off +39 and Areva Challenge.

Jesper Bank and his Germans sailed their best race for a ninth place finish ahead of the struggling Spanish, while Victory Challenge, first race winners, settled for 11th place. China Team rounded out the fleet.

RACE FOUR
In the second race, it was BMW ORACLE Racing who looked like stars on the starting line, belting across the line with good speed, right beside the Race Committee boat. The Americans would work up the right hand side of the beat, but it was the Italians on Luna Rossa who worked up the left side of the race course who would get to the top mark first. In the middle of the course, Emirates Team New Zealand was slightly behind at the start and were punished for it the rest of the race. The Kiwis could never find a lane with clear wind on the first beat and were driven down the fleet.

Early in the leg, China Team turned downwind and dropped their jib, retiring from the race with unspecified equipment problems. The team is scored Did Not Finish and doesn't earn any points for its efforts.

At the windward mark, there was more close action with the Italians leading BMW ORACLE Racing around, and then Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia skipper Vasco Vascotto squeezing inside of Alinghi and Areva Challenge. Victory Challenge was penalised for tacking too close to another boat at the mark, and fell back to trail the fleet after completing their exonerating turn. Just two minutes separated first from worst at the top mark.

At the bottom, the positions hadn't changed much with all of the action in the middle of the fleet, where the difference between fifth and ninth place was not very big.

Approaching the top mark for the final time, the Spanish picked up a penalty late on the beat when the Umpires judged they weren't far enough ahead of Emirates Team New Zealand on a close cross. Then the Germans were assigned a penalty for tacking too close at the mark.

On the final run the Kiwis picked up a few places by taking a gamble on the right side of the course, and by stealing fifth place, they remain in the hunt behind Luna Rossa in giving chase to Alinghi.

Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 11 - Provisional Results and Leaderboard
(finishing position / points scored)

Position 1 2 3 4 5 Total
1 Alinghi (SUI 75) 6/7 1/12 1/12 3/10 41
2 Luna Rossa Challenge (ITA 86) 10/3 2/11 3/10 1/12 36
3 Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL 84) 4/9 7/6 2/11 5/8 34
4 Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia (ITA 77) 2/11 10/3 5/8 4/9 31
5 BMW ORACLE Racing (USA 87) 9/4 6/7 4/9 2/11 31
6 Team Shosholoza (RSA 83) 5/8 5/8 6/7 8/5 28
7 Areva Challenge (FRA 60) 7/6 4/9 8/5 7/6 26
8 +39 Challenge (ITA 59) 3/10 12/1 7/6 6/7 24
9 Victory Challenge (SWE 63) 1/12 8/5 11/2 10/3 22
10 Desafío Español 2007 (ESP 65) 8/5 3/10 10/3 9/4 22
11 United Internet Team Germany (GER 72) 11/2 11/2 9/4 11/2 10
12 China Team (CHN 79) 12/1 9/4 12/1 DNF/0 6

______________

Note to editors:

Since 1851, the America's Cup has transcended the sport of sailing to become a symbol of the pursuit of excellence.

The official partners LOUIS VUITTON, ENDESA, SANTANDER, ALCATEL and the America's Cup share a heritage rich in passion, innovation and extraordinary human achievement.

The 32nd America's Cup enjoys the support of Nespresso, Adecco, Ford, El Corte Inglés, Estrella Damm, Grupo Leche Pascual and Coca-Cola; our Supporters, and valuable contributors to the America's Cup.

Racing for the 32nd America's Cup - Valencia began with a series of Louis Vuitton Acts in 2004 and 2005. The competition continues in 2006, with three more Louis Vuitton Acts in Valencia, the Host City of the 32nd America's Cup.

Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 10 - Match Racing - 11 to 18 May 2006
Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 11 - Fleet Racing - 19 to 21 May 2006
Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 12 - Match Racing - 22 June to 2 July 2006

In 2007, a fleet race event - Louis Vuitton Act 13 - will precede the Louis Vuitton Cup, the winner of which will then race the Defender, Team Alinghi, in the America's Cup Match in Valencia

THE AMERICA'S CUP - THE STAGE FOR CREATING LEGENDS.

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