British heroes contest America's Cup

 

Naples

Italy, well the Neapolitans at least, has discovered some new sporting heroes and many of them are British.

Olympic medallist Chris Draper and Paul Campbell-James are now dressed by the Prada fashion house as they skipper a pair of boats that is competing for the first time in the America's Cup World Series.

In near perfect conditions, crowds numbering thousands and stacked six to eight deep on the racecourse seafront gave polite applause when Team New Zealand's Dean Barker won both of the sun-bathed races, but there was cheering for the Luna Rossa team and extra applause at the mention of Draper crewman and local sailing star Francesco Bruni.

Draper also has Nick Hutton and David 'Freddie' Carr in his five-man line-up whereas Campbell-James has four Italians, including Luna Rossa team captain Max Sirena.

The organisation of this first of three regattas to complete the 2011-12 season as not been easy - the second is in Venice and the finale in Newport, Rhode Island - and two teams are missing, France's Aleph and the Valencia-based Italians of GreenComm.

There was also doubt about one of the America's Cup holder Oracle Racing's ability to race after the blustery opening day on Wednesday saw structural damage to one of its two boats. Swedish challenger Artemis had to replace its wing mast - borrowed from Aleph - after a capsize, and the Oracle shore team worked all night on a repair.

These races in 45-foot catamarans have no bearing on the America's Cup next year, which will be sailed in 72-footers, but they provide valuable training for the teams, allow the race management team led by Australian Iain Murray to refine the race style, and familiarise the public to the new style of 'stadium racing'.

The offshore division of team New Zealand, taking part in the Volvo round the world, is pushing Camper up the east coast of South America after stopping for repairs in Puerto Montt, Chile, and heading for the 1,000 miles to go marker to complete leg five from Auckland to Itajai, Brazil on Sunday or Monday.

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