America's Cup challenger receives boost

Six thousand feet up a mountain in Italy, with storm clouds threatening thunder and torrential rain, the relentless drive of the San Francisco-based America's Cup challenger BMW Oracle yesterday received a little extra momentum from the clothes manufacturer Slam.

Listen to Slam marketing chief Ugo Tinti explain the America’s Cup deal to Stuart Alexander

This when all the other challengers, including Britain's Origin challenge led by Sir Keith Mills, have had to sideline the majority of their people, including the sponsorship hunters, while New York courts restore order to a trophy held by Ernesto Bertarelli's Alinghi team from Switzerland.

On the side of Lake Garda below, Oracle boss Larry Ellison was waiting for a final tune-up session in his RC44 while the man with those initials, his skipper and ceo, Russell Coutts, dutifully described the venue for the fourth of six RC44 regattas this year as "one of the best places to go sailboat racing in the world."

Ellison needed one of the many sets of new oilskins available to him - though the forecast for today's session of match racing, in which he helms the boat himself, is for good conditions. More match racing follows tomorrow and there are then up to 12 fleet races.

Of over-riding interest remains progress towards the America's Cup, to be staged, unless the Appellate Division of the New York court orders an about face, in huge multihulls. When and where should be known soon, unless there are further legal appeals.

Alongside Coutts was Australian helmsman James Spithill, well known in Italy after steering Luna Rossa in the last Cup last year. "I think people will be pretty amazed when they see this boat which we are going to put on the water," he said. "The speed difference and acceleration are much greater than the monohulls we are used to. But," he insisted, "you can match race in these boats. We are having to relearn the game."