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First Regatta A Good Benchmark For Le Defi Areva

First Regatta A Good Benchmark For Le Defi Areva

French Challenger LE DEFI AREVA met Louis Vuitton Cup favourite Alinghi on the water for the first time today in their first match of the America’s Cup 2003.

The French team made a good start with FRA 69, tacking behind the luff of the Swiss boat (SUI 64) and pushing the black and red boat to the start line and race committee boat. But just before the start line, SUI 64 bore away and French helmsman Philippe Presti was able to closely gybe in behind - the French team came out in front with the Swiss boat hot on their tail.

"It was a fantastic start", says skipper Luc Pillot. "We had the leeward advantage and we made the most of it. At the start gun, we were just ahead at the buoy while the Swiss had to tack near the committee boat - that was a great feeling. We knew we had come out fighting!"

But SUI 64 soon came back and although both teams were manoeuvring well, the Swiss boat had a 53-second advantage at the first buoy. The first leeward leg of the race was a quick one, with both Class America boats finishing in around 20 minutes. By then, Russell Coutts had a 1.26 minute advantage, and over the next four legs, Alinghi gained a solid 4.48 minute advantage over the French team.

"We always knew that this was going to be a tough regatta against Alinghi – they are the favourites after all. But this start means that we have really entered into the contest. We have made a good start and are well-satisfied with our manoeuvres on FRA 69."

Sailing Manager, Pierre Mas is philosophical about the outcome of today’s regatta; "The wind factor was a difficult one for us this afternoon. It fluctuated between 10 and 15 knots, with directional gusts up to 18 knots so it was a little tricky to manage."

"There is something new to be learnt each day and today, we can say we learnt a lot! For us, the actual results from today’s regatta don’t really reflect the level of the competition. We were behind, but we raced well. We are making progress with each regatta and remain confident for the continuation."

"Tomorrow we meet the Swedish Victory Challenge and we can’t wait!" says Pierre Mas.

There is only one change to the crew list tomorrow, with Frédéric Le Maistre replacing Frédéric Brousse as grinder. Romain Troublé will remain bowman, Ronan Lucas as second bowman, Fabrice Blondel as mastman, Jean-François Rivalant in the pit, Eric Carret as sewer, Frederic Le Maistre and Jean-Paul Levrel as grinders, Thierry Douillard and Dimitri Despierres as headsail trimmers, Fabrice Levet as runner, Julien Cressant as mainsail grinder, Tanguy Cariou as mainsail trimmer and Sébastien Col as traveller. The afterguard comprises Philippe Presti as helmsman, Philippe Mourniac as navigator and Luc Pillot as skipper. 17th man tomorrow is in fact a woman; Mrs Helen Garnett, a VIP sponsor.

Other matches today: One World (USA 64) beat Mascalzone Latino (ITA 72) by 5.46 minutes, Oracle (USA 46) beat Prada (ITA 74) by 42 seconds and Stars and Stripes (USA 66) beat GBR Challenge (GBR 70) by a fine margin of 20 seconds.

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