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Alinghi to defend Cup with giant catamaran

THE worst-kept secret in the America's Cup is official: Alinghi of Switzerland will sail a giant catamaran when it defends the oldest trophy in international sports early next year against bitter US rival BMW Oracle Racing.

The Swiss confirmed on Saturday they will sail a twin-hulled boat that is 90 feet long on the waterline. The cat reportedly has a bowsprit that makes it about 120 feet overall.

The high-tech craft was built in Villeneuve, Switzerland, and will be launched by helicopter on Lake Geneva this coming week before undergoing testing. Alinghi and BMW Oracle Racing of San Francisco are scheduled to meet in a best-of-three series in February in massive multihulls.

The rare one-on-one showdown is the result of a convoluted, two-year court fight.

Alinghi gets to pick the venue, with a decision due by August 8, six months before the first race. The Swiss reportedly are considering Abu Dhabi, UAE, apparently feeling that their catamaran would excel there in light wind and flat water.

BMW Oracle Racing will counter with a 90-foot trimaran. The American syndicate is close to relaunching its boat in San Diego, likely on Monday. The space age-looking trimaran has been in the boatshed since March for what the syndicate said are significant modifications. The trimaran has gone through three rounds of testing, first in Anacortes, Washington, and then on the Pacific Ocean off San Diego.

With the size and speed of the giant multihulls, it could be the most spectacular racing in the 158-year history of the America's Cup.

BMW Oracle Racing's trimaran is capable of sailing 2 to 2? times the speed of the wind. Its mast is as high as a 16-story building and the mainsail is twice the size of a Boeing 747's wing. The boat's three hulls would cover the diamond on a major league baseball field, and are just shorter than an NBA court.


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