Thu, 10 Mar 2005

From: AFP

Chinese team lining up America's Cup challenge

A Chinese investor on Tuesday announced a pioneering 32 million euro (US$42 million) Chinese bid to challenge for sailing's most prestigious trophy, the America's Cup.

"China Team" is joining forces with the former French America's Cup team Le Defi to take part in the 2007 event, Wang Chaoyong, chief executive of the Beijing-based China Equity Investment company said in Geneva.

"Today we are announcing a new joint venture between a Chinese and a French team to create a vehicle to prepare ourselves to join the ranks of the America's Cup challengers," he said.

Xavier de Lesquen, who led Le Defi's unsuccessful challenge for the last two editions of sport's oldest trophy in 2000 and 2003, said he hoped to join the formal list of challengers with China Team by the deadline of April 29.

The French sailor said the Swiss holder Alinghi's success in building a team from scratch with the help of foreign crew -- mainly from New Zealand and Germany -- had shown a new path for entering the costly, high tech regatta.

"That's exactly what we want to do today through the creation of this new association of China with an existing team," he said.

De Lesquen, who will be the co-director with Wang, said the team was budgeting about 32 million euros for the bid.

The bid will be based in Qingdao, the site for the sailing events at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

China Team has its sights set beyond the 2007 Cup by aiming to train a small pool of emerging Chinese sports sailors and harness local engineering and design competence.

"The most important thing is to be in there," Wang said. "We would like to see a good result, but we want to build a good platform and play up Chinese talents," he added.

The huge communist nation has little tradition or expertise in sailing, let alone among the 12 metre (40 foot) tailor-made America's Cup yachts that are often the preserve of billionaire sportsmen.

But Chinese athletes have been able to swiftly expand their tally of Olympic medals across a broader range of sports in recent years.

Eight teams have so far formally lodged challenges against holder Alinghi for the 2007 America's Cup, which is due to take place in Valencia, Spain.

They are BMW-Oracle from the United States, Team New Zealand, Team Shosholoza of South Africa, +39 Challenge and Luna Rossa from Italy, Sweden's Victory, K-Challenge from France and Spain's El Reto.