|ESPN.com: America's Cup 2007||[Print without images]|
|BMW Oracle Racing is hoping to end the United States' drought at the America's Cup.|
Bruce Farr from Annapolis, Ellison's designer, has had a storied career, winning everything except the America's Cup. This is his seventh attempt and Farr is hungry for a win. The BMW Oracle skipper is a seasoned New Zealander named Chris Dickson, who is one tough competitor. This is Dickson's fifth time as a skipper. Farr and Dickson have teamed up in the past and fallen short. I think if Dickson can keep calm, sail with his natural gift for making a boat go fast while letting Ellison handle the endless management details, this team could surprise Allinghi. But first, Ellison has to get past a crowded field of challengers. In my view, only two will pose a problem: Emirates Team New Zealand and Italy's Luna Rosa. The NZ boat has American Terry Hutchinson calling the shots. The chief designer is Clay Oliver. Another rising star on board is Mark Mendleblatt, who sailed for the U.S. in the 2004 Athens Olympics. But the real question for NZ is their helmsman. Right now, Dean Barker is the designated driver, but he has a habit of losing in big events. Backing him up is Ben Ainsley from Great Britain, who has won two gold medals and a silver in the last three Olympics. No one in the world has come close to that achievement in the men's classes. NZ's manager is Grant Dalton, who placed first or second in six different races around the world. He is a strong manager who will choose the best lineup. I think NZ and the U.S. will meet in the Louis Vuitton Cup final with BMW Oracle Racing advancing. At this date, Allinghi is the favorite; after all, they are all ready in the Cup match. What will set the tone for future America's Cups is how Allinghi will fare practicing on its own as the challengers spend the next two months racing and improving their boat speed and sailing skill. So far, Allinghi has shown she is the favorite by wining a two-year series of pre-Cup regattas called Louis Vuitton Acts. Of course, no one knows exactly what will happen. And for that reason, the 32nd America's Cup season will be great fun to watch. Gary Jobson is a sailing analyst for ESPN. He is a former collegiate sailor and was a tactician for the 1977 America's Cup-winning yacht Courageous.