The third and final Act of the new America's Cup is completed with the two most famous teams taking the trophies

 It’s impossible to gauge just how much Alinghi wanted to win each of the three Acts. At times their performance seemed to be so far from the slick and polished routine that won them the Cup down in Auckland, that you couldn’t help wondering if they were putting it on. But then when you considered the age of the boat and gear, the internal problems they have gone though and the speed with which others have learned, it was just as easy to convince yourself that the former dream-team was having a difficult and somewhat humiliating time.

“It’s good to win the last Act. We still have to improve our weaknesses and strengthen the team,” said Alinghi’s navigator Juan Vila. “We need to train more and that’s what we will do next year. From now on we will start building the team.”

Whatever the reason for their unusual performance, in the end they pulled it off, at least for Act 3 and won the third and final event of the year. The turning point was the day before yesterday when the team moved into the lead. Today they consolidated that position with a third in the first race and a second in the next.

Meanwhile, the Kiwis, who had a miserable first race and a blistering second, stitched together a performance in all three Acts that won them the overall 2004 season trophy. An impressive performance from a team who, up until a few weeks ago, were uncertain as to whether they’d even take part after their boat was seriously damaged in Marseille.

“Thirteen wins out of seventeen races, a campaign that started in June this year, I can only be really happy that. I think we’ve done a lot better than I expected,” said Grant Dalton.

“I thought we put together an almost perfect race this afternoon, I thought the guys did an unbelievable job. The danger for us now is that having been too successful too quickly, is that we do a good All-Black trick and lose the world Cup, have a couple of good years testing and then fall off the cliff again.”

“I think it’s very important not to fall into the trap of following the Yellow Brick Road and get intoxicated with success. We might get hammered next year.”

Another team to confuse the pundits was BMW Oracle. Having looked so strong for so long, to see them flounder at times in the last two weeks was not what we had expected, but today they proved that they can still pull things together and dominate the racing when they won the first race by a giant margin.

In the afternoon, the Kiwis were out to make sure that the Americans didn’t steal their thunder and forced them out of the running early in the proceedings. BMW Oracle finished third today and just managed to make it into the top four group.

“I think it’s really important because we’re going to have several months off now, so it’s great to come out on a winning note,” said John Kostecki. “I know the crew and the team are real psyched up now. It will be good to relax and reflect on these Acts.”

So what did the others have to say for themselves on the final day of what has proved to be an outstanding start to the new generation of Americas’ Cup racing?

** Philippe Presti, pondering the future of LE DEFI

All the team is contracted just until today. We hope Le Defi will find money to be there in 2007. The deadline is 28th April. We would prefer to have secured money by December. We’ve got a lot of good input with the sponsorship, but if you don’t actually sign the money, it’s like being in a race but not quite reaching the finish line. If you don’t cross the finishing line you’re still racing.

** Stephane Kandler, head of K-Challenge, on finishing within two points of the top four:

This team is very young, and we didn’t exist a month ago. We showed we can play with the big teams.

** Geoff Meek on judging his expectations before and after the event:

A few months ago we thought we’d have to sail half with our own crew and half with more seasoned America’s Cup crews but now we’re very happy to sail with our crew

** Luca Devoti and Iain Percy, not quite agreeing on the goal for Act 4 next June:

Devoti: I think with the same boat we are going to be top four in June. Percy: Top five. Devoti: Top four.