Sailing: Naples savours America's Cup experience

World Series comes to Italy in final test before big event

Sailing: Naples savours America's Cup experience

(By Paul Virgo) Naples, April 17 - Naples is getting its second taste of the America's Cup experience this week, with nine of the world's best sailing teams in town for the series that helps them prepare for this summer's big event in San Francisco. The Naples leg of the 2012-13 America's Cup World Series starts in earnest with the start of competition on Thursday, although the teams have been here all week training. The third and final event of the 2012-13 series is the last full-blooded competition for teams before the Louis Vuitton Cup, which will see three outfits do battle between July and September for the right to challenge holders Oracle Team USA for the America's Cup proper. Last year's AC World Series event Naples drew estimated crowds of half a million people to the beautiful Naples seafront for a taste of America's Cup competition, which is often described as Formula One on water. The World Series sees teams face off in AC45 catamarans, twin-hub boats similar to the AC72's that will be used in the 34th America's Cup. The main point of interest at the 2012 event in Naples was the debut of Luna Rossa in the series. The Prada-backed Italian outfit enjoyed a dream induction, with one of its two teams, Piranha, coming first after a thrilling victory in the final fleet race. And local enthusiasts' eyes will again be focused on Luna Rossa for indications of how the team's bid to claim the oldest trophy in international sport is shaping up. "The most beautiful memory from last year's event in Naples is the Neapolitans, their warmth and support, not only for our team, but for the event itself," said Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena. "Still today the image of the crowd spread all over the seafront and on the surrounding hills remains the symbol of last year's event. I expect the crowd to be even larger this year, and support us even stronger". After the two previous stages of this season's World Series Piranha is second in the standings with 121 points, 44 behind the Oracle team skippered by Tom Slingsby. The second Luna Rossa team, Swordfish, is sixth with 71 points. "We're in for a great battle between us at Luna Rossa and the other teams, starting with Oracle," said Luna Rossa Piranha skipper Chris Draper. "The races will be more about tactics than speed, so they will be less tiring physically, but at the same time they will be challenging, as there lots of teams will be at the same level. "Each event and match will be crucial to get as much as insight as possible into the rival teams in view of the Louis Vuitton Cup, when we'll race with AC72s, which are different from the AC45s as they are uncontrolled beasts, they are tigers". Luna Rossa will be up against Sweden's Artemis Racing and Team New Zealand at the Louis Vuitton Cup in San Francisco. Italian fashion house Prada also backed Luna Rossa for America's Cup campaigns in 2000, 2003 and 2007. Their best America's Cup campaign was their first one in 2000, when they won the Louis Vuitton Cup to earn the right to challenge for the ultimate prize before being whitewashed 5-0 by New Zealand in the decisive series. Another point of interest for the Naples event is the participation of Britain's four-time Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie at the helm of the J.P. Morgan BAR team. "I'm in Naples for the first time and I have to say that it's a beautiful city with excellent sea conditions for the regattas," said Ainslie. "It's the first time that we are in competition against other teams, although we have had the chance to train with Oracle. "The competition will be of a really high level".

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