GENEVA - America's Cup defenders Alinghi have chosen a giant catamaran to meet US rival Oracle's challenge, photographs in the Swiss press revealed yesterday.
The slender craft with two 27.4 metre long hulls is the Swiss team's response to the huge trimaran that Oracle launched last year during the legal battle over the duel, that Alinghi eventually lost.
The catamaran was pictured - in separate shots because of its size - inside a tent at the boatyard on Lake Geneva in western Switzerland where Alinghi was putting the finishing touches ahead of an expected launch around July 8.
It includes an even longer, fixed central boom for a headsail, and draws on some designs used for lake racing to allow a wide variation in the sail configuration and rigging, Dutch designer Rolf Vrolijk said.
"What you can gain in speed with the hulls is in the end less important than the gains from the rigging and the sails," he told the Tribune de Geneve newspaper.
However, the exact configuration, including the mast, and the other dimensions were not revealed, while parts were kept hidden according to local media that were allowed into the high security tent to see the boat.
Estimates for the height of the mast ranged from 48 to 50 metres.
"That's about it," New Zealander Murray Jones, the team strategist, told Le Matin newspaper.
"This boat is one of the greatest challenges ever made in the history of yachting," he added.
Engineers collaborating with Alinghi have worked on hydrofoils, which have made their appearance on experimental multihulls.
The winglets make for a spectacular sight, lifting a hull out of the water as a boat gains speed, and greatly increasing its pace.
However, the Swiss team declined to give any details on any of its work.
Bankrolled by billionaires Ernesto Bertarelli and Larry Ellison respectively, Alinghi and Oracle are due to fight out their duel on the open seas by next year.
The venue for the race - which is up to Alinghi - has yet to be decided, with speculation over a choice between Valencia in Spain, where Alinghi won the last America's Cup in 2007, and the coast of Dubai.
Sailing's most prestigious regatta has traditionally been sailed in large monohull yachts, apart from a one-off challenge in 1988.
Speculation has been growing in the sailing world that Oracle is developing a catamaran after having trouble with the monster three hull design it launched on the US west coast last year.