By Julian Manduca
While hope had been spread that Malta will get a chance to host a pre-match race for the America’s cup, our neighbours in Sicily will have their day this autumn and Trapani is set to benefit to the tune of EUR84 million.
The city of Trapani is better known for its marble, tuna fishing and salt, but over the last few months its 69,000 inhabitants have turned their talk to something that only a few years ago was a hopeless dream, the hosting of an America’s Cup pre-match race.
The final of the 32 America’s cup is due to take place in Valencia in 2007, but between 29 September and 9 October 2005 all eyes will be on the west coast of Sicily focused on Trapani.
This will be the first time in 150 years that the America’s Cup returns to Europe and the first time ever that a race that forms part of the cup takes place in Italy.
Malta’s hopes were raised last year following a visit of highly successful skipper Russell Coutts, who came to take a closer look at what Malta could offer and even had talks with ministers Louis Galea and Francis Zammit Dimech.
The visit was intended to judge Malta’s possibilities with a view to hosting one pre-race regatta and Coutts accompanied by top sailor Paul Cayard had said: “This was a short but useful trip. Paul and I had a quick look at what this country could offer and our first impressions were positive. Obviously, it is still early for any decision. However, I wouldn’t rule out Malta from pre-race regattas. “There are still many things to be done first. As I said, this was a brief stop-over in Malta... we didn’t have enough time to make a thorough evaluation of the climatic conditions and other vital matters in our sport. The early indications look positive though.”
At a presentation of Trapani’s pre-match race last year it was announced that Trapani’s harbour was undergoing renewal to host the event.
The dock works are being funded by the government, with EUR62 million, to be included in the national Infrastructure ministry programme. Trapani’s municipal council has allocated another EUR16 million for urban and city works, and Sicily’s Regional Government will allocate EUR4 million for the actual race organisation.
A new 1,200 boat marina is also being constructed. This year’s season sails off in Valencia between June 16 and 26, to be followed by races in Malmo between 25 August and 4 September and then, south again to Trapani.
All the teams besides Switzerland’s Team Alinghi – which is prohibited as holder of the America’s Cup will also be official entrants in the Louis Vuitton Cup
The final entry deadline for the America’s Cup and Louis Vuitton Cup is 29 April. After its 5-0 victory in 2003 Alinghi is already entered in the 32 America’s Cup as the defending team and other confirmed challengers include BMW Oracle Racing of the US, France’s K-Challenge; Italy’s Luna Rossa Challenge, Team Capitalia and +39; Emirates Team New Zealand; South Africa’s Team Shosholoza; Spain’s El Reto Challenge; and Sweden’s Victory Challenge.
Strong winds are predicted to be the theme for the final act on Sicily’s northwest coast.