Britain's Origin team challenging for an America's Cup which, for most, hashit legal buffers, was relishing a crack at the holder Alinghi on itsown Swiss waters this weekend in the opening event of the next big thing tofill the AC void, the 2008 iShares Cup.
Flying in to sail on his team's Extreme 40-foot catamaran was Origin bossSir Keith Mills. Trying to deliver the goods for him was Rob Greenhalgh,with brother Peter an experienced campaigner in the style of short courseracing, and hoping to upset the party for both of them was Britain's doubleOlympic gold medallist, Shirley Robertson.
First blood had gone to the Brits as Ed Baird, skipper of the Alinghi catand helmsman last year when beating Team New Zealand 5-2 to retain the cupin Valencia, was hit by a 30-knot bullet squall on the first day andcapsized. Shirley won, Greenhalgh was second and Robertson was in frontagain in the third race.
Yesterday the breeze lived up to its reputation for serial absenteeism andRobertson lived up to her reputation for uncompromising attack, hammeringhome a hat-trick of wins to take a commanding lead but she was pipped in the last race by Greenhalgh.
Tomorrow the Audi Medcup sees its initial TP52 skirmishes inMarseille, with the America's Cup challenger Larry Ellison's BMW Oraclejoining the fray direct from Austria and third place in the match acingsection of the RC44 regatta.
RC, refers to his skipper and ceo, Russell Coutts and his fleet of 10 isalso attracting top players from the stalled America's Cup front.The future for the Extreme 40 circuit, which is organised by EllenMacArthur and Mark Turner's Cowes-based OC Events, is currently underdiscussion with iShares' Dan Kiddle saying he would like to see all theparticipants round the table to discuss expansion and development. Hisguests enjoy the opportunity to be on board while racing.
For Greenhalgh, multihulls are the exciting future. They will be the weaponof choice, well, Ellison's choice anyway, for the next America's Cup in2009 and, says Greenhalgh, "I would like to see multihulls for theAmerica's Cup after that. If they were adopted you would see a whole raftof new moves developed. You can match race anything."