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America's Cup to resume this week

| Friday, May 12, 2006

It's likely to be the tried-and-true against the new when America's Cup yachts resume racing this week in another warmup for next year's main event.

Many of the 12 teams -- defending champion Alinghi of Switzerland and 11 challengers -- have launched or are about to launch new versions of their 75-foot carbon fiber boats. The dilemma is whether to start racing new boats now and risk revealing closely guarded secrets about their design.

On the other hand, sticking to heavily modified old boats means the crews won't have a chance to improve the new models or see how they stack up against rivals.

"If your new boat is getting trashed by old boats, you are in serious trouble," said Grant Dalton of Emirates Team New Zealand.

The Acts are 14 regattas that started in 2004 as a prelude to the 2007 America's Cup, which will be held off Valencia, Spain. The results of these races will help seed the competition for the 2007 challenger trials.

"I think this year takes on a bit more urgency for all teams by having new boats," Dalton said. "You can't really hide behind, 'Well, our old boats are slow, but wait 'til we get a new one' anymore."

Peter Isler, navigator aboard the U.S. entry BMW Oracle Racing, said, "You have to balance out the paranoia of showing what you have with the need to spend time testing it and learning it yourself."

BMW Oracle, the only U.S.-based syndicate, announced it would sail its new boat, USA 87, in Acts 10 and 11. Act 10 is a match-racing regatta, and Act 11 will be fleet racing.

USA 87 is distinguished by a bow sprit.

"USA 87 is a very innovative boat -- possibly the most innovative America's Cup Class yacht built to date," said Chris Dickson, the syndicate's CEO and skipper. "The mast, the hull, the structure and the appendages make this a very different boat. It will take us some time to get the best out of her, but we are happy to be starting that process."

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