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Alinghi meets fans in Zurich

Alinghi Skipper Russell Coutts holds trophy after defeating Team New Zealand.
Alinghi Skipper Russell Coutts holds trophy after defeating Team New Zealand.

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  • Alinghi becomes first European team to win Cup

  • Alinghi becomes first team to win Cup on first attempt since 1851

  • Alinghi becomes first landlocked country to win Cup

  • Alinghi skipper Russell Coutts becomes most successful Cup skipper

  • Team New Zealand becomes first team to pull out of two Cup races

ZURICH, Switzerland -- The Alinghi team will be in Zurich for the weekend on the third leg of its Swiss tour, according to Alinghi's Web site.

Fans will be able to admire the coveted America's Cup trophy and try their hand on the famous Match Race simulator -- an electronic game that allows the public to test drive an America's Cup Class yacht on a match racing course -- at the Bahnhof starting on Friday.

The team will also hold autograph sessions Friday through Sunday.

Alinghi, financed by Swiss billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli, brought the coveted cup to Europe for the first time in its 152-year history earlier this month after crushing Team New Zealand 5-0.

The silver trophy had been on display in Lugano and, after Zurich, it will travel to Lucerne and capital Berne.

"After the Swiss tour, it will go on a world tour, with stops in Paris, Milan, Tokyo, New York and London," Alinghi spokesman Bernard Schopfer told Reuters.

The cup is due to arrive back at the Yacht Club of Geneva (Societe Nautique de Geneva), Alinghi's base in late May, according to Schopfer.

Alec Tournier, club secretary-general, said that various options were being studied to display the silver cup securely for public view.

Several European tycoons have tried over 15 decades to take back the trophy that the U.S. yacht America won by beating a fleet of British schooners around the Isle of Wight in 1851, but only Bertarelli has succeeded.

Alinghi began the long challengers series back in October 2002 as the clear favorites to win the right to take on Team New Zealand in the 31st America's Cup.

The Swiss syndicate lived up to the tag when it dominated the series, finishing two qualifying round robins as the leading team among the nine challengers after winning 13 of its 16 races.

It was then unbeaten in the first two knockout stages of the challengers regatta.

Alinghi beat defending Louis Vuitton Cup challengers champion Prada 4-0 in the quarter-finals and crushed U.S. software billionaire Larry Ellison's Oracle BMW Racing 4-0 in the semi-finals to become the first team to reach the challengers final.

Alinghi then beat Oracle again 5-1 in the challengers final to reach the 31st America's Cup match. Alinghi dominated the Cup match, helped by a disastrous defense for New Zealand, whose boat was clearly inferior.

Despite its win, Switzerland will not be able to host the Cup's defense. Under race rules the regatta must be held at sea, so the landlocked country is looking for a port in which to defend the Cup.

Italian-born Bertarelli has suggested several possible venues, including Naples, Italy; Barcelona, Spain; Palma de Majorca, Spain; and Saint Tropez, France.

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