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Page last updated at 18:49 GMT, Friday, 12 February 2010

BMW Oracle beats Alinghi in America's Cup opener

Alinghi (left) and Oracle jostle at the start
Oracle (right) won despite stalling on the start

US challenger BMW Oracle defeated defending champion Alinghi by 3kms in the opening race of the America's Cup.

The start, which had already been twice postponed for two days because of unfavourable conditions, was delayed again by rough conditions on Friday.

When the race finally got under way in Spain, Oracle made an awful start but was evidently faster than its Swiss rival and won with ease in the end.

The second race of the best-of-three series is scheduled for Sunday.

Both teams are racing multihulls instead of monohulls for the first time and the boats - both 90 feet (27 metres) long - are bigger and faster than anything ever seen before in the Cup.

Software mogul Larry Ellison's BMW Oracle finished the 40kms course more than 15 minutes ahead of Alinghi, reaching speeds of more than 20 knots with two of its three carbon-fibre hulls raised high out of the water.


That followed a dramatic start in which Oracle helmsman James Spithill lured Alinghi counterpart Ernesto Bertarelli into a penalty as the Swiss boat failed to give way just before the starting gun.

However, Spithill appeared to have undone that good work when he stalled on the line, allowing Alinghi to surge ahead.

But Oracle soon made up the distance and within 20 minutes of the start, had opened up a lead of 650m.

"This was one of the hardest days I've had on the boat, with the pressure and direction changes," said Spithill.

"It was a real show of strength today. We pushed the boat harder than I've ever pushed it before. We were right on the edge."

BMW Oracle claim their boat USA, featuring a wing-sail twice the size of that on a Boeing 747 plane, can reach speeds of 40 knots and slice along with one hull lifted 30 feet in the air.

Alinghi, meanwhile, backed by Italian-born biotechnology tycoon Bertarelli, have put their faith in a tilting mast that towers 17 storeys high.

Pre-race reports suggested Alinghi could be faster in light conditions, but Friday's race, in winds of between 6 and 10 knots, appeared to disprove that theory.

However, Ellison remains cautious.

"To be the America's Cup champion you have to win two races not one. We'll see what happens in two days now," he said.

"I'm confident in our team. But Alinghi has got a great team and it's all on - on Sunday - and knowing that team they're going to be working extra hard."

Rough estimates are that each side has spent $200m (£128m) on their campaigns, including hefty lawyers' fees.

The regatta had been scheduled for 2009 but was delayed by legal battles over hosting rights and technology which led to a three-race series without the usual challengers regatta.

Oracle, sailing under the colours of San Francisco's Golden Gate Yacht Club, and Alinghi, aligned to the Societe Nautique de Geneve, have been arguing over the rules since the Swiss team beat Team New Zealand in the last edition in Valencia in July 2007.

They have battled for more than two years over who had the right to challenge Alinghi, the kind of boats they could sail in and the technology that could be used.

The America's Cup - international sport's oldest trophy - was first raced for around the Isle of Wight in 1851.

The race is a straightforward 40-mile course of one upwind leg and one downwind.

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see also
America's Cup 'free to go ahead'
30 Jan 10 |  Sailing
Oracle set sail despite Cup row
19 Jan 10 |  Sailing
Court confirms Spain as Cup venue
15 Dec 09 |  Sailing
Alinghi propose Australia as host
05 Nov 09 |  Sailing
America's Cup battle set for UAE
05 Aug 09 |  Sailing
GB duo eye future America's Cup
25 Jun 09 |  Sailing
Date set for 33rd America's Cup
14 May 09 |  Sailing
Alinghi win America's Cup battle
29 Jul 08 |  Other sport...
America's Cup goes back to court
27 Mar 08 |  Other sport...
Alinghi secure America's Cup win
03 Jul 07 |  Sailing
America's Cup guide
16 Apr 07 |  Sailing

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