Italian fashion house Prada signalled its return to the America's Cup scene when it announced today that it will compete in the Louis Vuitton trophy regatta in La Maddalena, Sardinia, next month.
Racing under the name Luna Rossa, Patrizio Bertelli, a three-time America's Cup campaigner and chairman of the Prada group, has asked the American Ed Baird to skipper the Louis Vuitton crew and, it is thought, the team will go on to contest the third Lous Vuitton regatta this year, in Dubai, and the first in 2010 in Hong Kong.
He will have two Brazilians with nearly two handsful of Olympic medals, Robert Scheidt and Torben Grael, alongside him but will not be with them on the parallel TP52 which joins the Audi MedCup circuit in Cascais, Lisbon, next month.
Emirates Team New Zealand will be in Portugal defending its 2009 title, as Britain's Ben Ainslie leads his home America's Cup team, Origin, at both regattas alongside the Swedish Cup contenders Artemis and Russia's Synergy.
With the French press predicting that the Franco-German team All4One will also join the Audi circuit, that makes five America's Cup teams and three Italian teams on the Louis Vuitton road to the America's Cup with challenger of record Mascalzone Latino and the revived Azzurra challenge from the Aga Khan's Yacht Club Costa Smeralda.
The pace of development in the talks about the timing and format of the next America's Cup may have all the pace of a bus in an inner city rush hour, but the interest among challengers is picking up considerably.