Louis Vuitton announce partnership that will see a series of regattas take place between now and 2010

On Tuesday afternoon, Louis Vuitton announced a partnership with the new World Sailing Team Association that will see a series of regattas take place between now and 2011, organised in a similar format to the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series which was held in Auckland in February of this year.

The first ‘World Series’ event will take place in just two months time, in Nice, from the 7th to the 22nd November and it, along with at least two further events in 2010, will count towards a season ending Series Trophy.

Equalised version 5 ACC boats will be supplied to the competitors. In Auckland, the boats came from Emirates Team New Zealand and BMW Oracle Racing. For Nice, it is expected that two of the boats will be supplied by Mascalzone Latino, with negotiations underway with the Spanish team for the use of their two boats as well.

The eight teams currently signed up for the regatta include more than the usual suspects, and in fact, a few of the names from Valencia and the Pacific Series in Auckland are conspicuously absent from the roster – namely Italy’s Luna Rossa, Britain’s Team Origin, South Africa’s Shosholoza, and perhaps most ominously, the current Defender of the America’s Cup, Switzerland’s Alinghi.

As of Tuesday’s announcement, BMW Oracle Racing (USA), Emirates Team New Zealand, Italia by Joe Fly, K-Challenge (FRA), Mascalzone Latino (ITA), Swedish Challenge Artemis, Synergy Russian Sailing Team and Team French Spirit have climbed aboard, with just two more spaces remaining to be allocated for Nice. Based on the experience of the Pacific Series, the regattas will be restricted to just ten teams, with further announcements expected in the coming days.

While the focus of Tuesday’s launch was on the new World Series, the real innovation here may in fact be the World Sailing Team Association itself. Currently comprising four ‘preferred shareholders’ (BMW Oracle Racing, Emirates TNZ, Synergy and Artemis), along with all of the other competing teams (who collectively have one share), and Louis Vuitton, the association is designed to promote the interests of the sailing teams in the Series, and provide a measure of certainty, in terms of an event calendar, that has been lacking due to the current America’s Cup climate.

“The idea is to have a collective decision-making process and make smart decisions that won’t get rolled by one overbearing party,” explained Grant Dalton, the CEO of Emirates Team New Zealand. “This is not set up to compete with the America’s Cup. This is a stand-alone, match racing regatta with big teams and big boats in a partnership with Louis Vuitton. It’s not designed to compete with the America’s Cup. It’s about giving continuity to sponsors by offering a long-term programme not just for next year, but for the years after, so that people like me can go talk to Emirates (for example) and sell them something.”

“We’re trying to build a ‘Champions League’ of sailing that can exist alongside the America’s Cup,” was the way Stephane Kandler, the CEO of K-Challenge, put it.

Certainly the series can be seen as a lifeline to teams like Emirates Team New Zealand and K-Challenge, who will be the ‘host team’ at the first regatta in Nice.

Dalton says the WSTA is looking at as many as three events in 2010, but that the new series will work to avoid clashes with the TP52 and RC44 circuits. A regatta in Auckland in February/March seems a near certainty and the rest of the 2010 calendar will be revealed during the November regatta in Nice.