America's Cup defenders Alinghi prepare for Louis Vuitton Act 10 and 11 which starts Thursday 8/5/06

 At the Alinghi camp the count-down to the start of Louis Vuitton Act 10 has begun, and the sailing team has stepped it up a gear on the water, moving away from testing and into race practice mode.

Ed Baird will take the helm for the first event of the 2006 season and, continuing with the squad operation, the crew will rotate daily. He will announce the afterguard at the ACM press conference on 10 May at 1100.

Last year all three Alinghi helmsmen, including Peter Holmberg and Jochen Schuemann, took their turn at the wheel, keeping the results high and in all winning 31 match races out of 33, taking the 2005 ACC Championship. Since then, Alinghi has moved in to the new base in Valencia, built a new boat, SUI91, taken on two new crew members, tactician, Peter Evans (NZ) and grinder, Brian Sharp (USA) and launched a new-look boat design.

Brad Butterworth, skipper and tactician gives his take on the readiness of the team before the start of Act 10: “We are about 80 per cent prepared compared to where we’ll be at for the America’s Cup. We have been testing a lot, most of the time really, and have done very little race practice. But I think the guys are good enough to sail the boats well and be a threat in this regatta. We have put as much into this regatta as we have put into the ones in 2005.

“I expect to do well that is for sure, I mean we would like to carry on in our winning form. There are a lot of changes that have happened, but our expectation is, that we would like to win the regattas.”

Ed Baird, helmsman comments on the competition: “It is going to be an interesting event because we have two brand-new race boats from two very strong teams going out on the race track and we want to see how we’re doing against those guys. They are coming forward with their new equipment and they’re trying to find out where they stand. We are going out with equipment that we know very well and we need to know how far they have got. We have to go and find out what they have to make sure that when our new boat comes out soon, we have a measure, a judgment, of how well we’ve done in developing our new equipment against those guys.”

Act 10, the match racing plays out from 11-16 May and Act 11 from 19-21 May. There will be two matches a day with the first start at 1400 and the second at 1600.