China to sail in the America’s Cup

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The first-time challenger is one of 12 syndicates from nine countries and five continents

The first-time challenger is one of 12 syndicates from nine countries and five continents

The 2007 America’s Cup promises to be a truly international competition, with 12 syndicates from nine countries and three of the teams — the Chinese, German and South African challengers — from countries that have never competed in a Cup.

“It is the most international edition of the America’s Cup ever,” says Michel Bonnefous, the event’s CEO, in a conference call with the media recorded on the Cup Web site (www.americascup.com).

Cup holder Team Alinghi is based in Switzerland. The challengers include a syndicate each from the United States, New Zealand, China, South Africa, France, Germany, Sweden and Spain, and three from Italy. The Chinese and South African entries suggest that America’s Cup fever may be spreading from Europe, the United States and Australasia to other parts of the world.

China Equity Investment Group, a leading Chinese capital venture firm, is launching a joint venture with Le Defi, a French sports management firm that fielded challenges in the last two Cups, to organize China Team to represent the Chinese Yacht Club.

The Chinese will start with two of Le Defi’s IACC yachts and all the architectural plans, logistics and technical data that go with them. The syndicate will use Le Defi’s expertise along with home-grown talent to design its own yacht to be built in a Chinese yard, according to the syndicate. The syndicate will be based out of Qingdao — host city for the sailing events of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games — and will train a pool of up-and-coming Chinese sailors.

The lineup of syndicates for the 2007 America’s Cup includes:

• Team Alinghi, representing the Societe Nautique de Geneve, Switzerland — syndicate head is Ernesto Bertarelli, sports director Jochen Schuemann, helmsmen Peter Holmberg and Ed Baird.

• BMW Oracle Racing, representing San Francisco’s Golden Gate Yacht Club — syndicate head is Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison, skipper and CEO Chris Dickson, helmsman Gavin Brady.

• +39, representing Italy’s Circolo Vela Garynano — syndicate head is Lorenzo Rizzardi, skipper Luca Devoti, helmsman Ian Percy.

• Team Shosholoza, representing South Africa’s Royal Cape Town Yacht Club — managing director is shipping magnate Capt. Salvatore Sarno, president Mafika Mkwanazi, skipper Geoff Meek.

• Emirates Team New Zealand, representing the New Zealand Yachting Squadron — Grant Dalton is syndicate director, skipper Dean Barker.

• K-Challenge, representing France’s Cercle de la Voile de Paris — Stephane Kandler is syndicate head, general manager Dawn Riley, skipper Tierry Reponnet.

• Victory Challenge, representing Sweden’s Gamla Stans Yacht Club — syndicate head is Hugo Stenbeck, son of Jan Stenbeck, the media and telecommunications entrepreneur who founded the syndicate.

• Lunna Rossa Challenge, representing Yacht Club Italiano — syndicate head is Patrizio Bertelli, skipper/helmsmen Francisco de Angeles and James Spithill, tactician Charlie McKee.

• Desafio Espanol, representing Spain’s Real Federacion Espanola de Vela — syndicate heads are Agostin Zulueta and Luis Doreste, and skipper is to be announced.

• Team Capitalia, representing Italy’s Real Yacht Club Canottieri Savoia — shipping magnate Vincenzo Onorato is syndicate head of this all-Italian team, skipper and tactician Vasco Vascotto, helmsman Flavio Favini.

• United Internet Team Germany, representing the Deutscher Challenger Yacht Club — syndicate head is Uwe Sasse, skipper and helmsman Jesper Bank.

• China Team, representing the Chinese Yacht Club — co-directors of the syndicate are Chaoyong Wang and Xavier de Lesquen.