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BMW Oracle Not Concerned With Alinghi Just Yet

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VALENCIA, Spain (AP) _ Ten of the 11 challengers for the America's Cup will use the Louis Vuitton Act 13 to gauge their boats against defending champion Alinghi.

BMW Oracle Racing skipper Chris Dickson, however, isn't worried about the Swiss boat just yet.

``The standard and level of the challengers is at a very high level across the board. This act is more important for Alinghi checking in against the challengers and not the other way around,'' Dickson said Monday. ``So, as usual, it should be very interesting.''

Dickson said Act 13 is Alinghi's best chance to measure itself against the field before the challengers face-off in the Louis Vuitton Cup _ which decides who will face Alinghi in the America's Cup from June 23-July 4.

Alinghi skipper Brad Butterworth said Alinghi would treat Act 13, which begins Tuesday, like any other race.

``It's good for us to sail against the other teams,'' Butterworth said. ``We'll take something, but it's not the same as sailing in a match race. It's difficult in a fleet race to get a good idea.''

The Swiss team will be forced into training after Act 13 finishes Friday. It will then await the winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup, which runs from April 16-June 11. Alinghi can train with any of the other 11 challengers until then, a scenario Dickson wanted no part of.

``Certainly we have no plans to sail against Alinghi,'' Dickson said. ``We thought about it and there's no sporting reason and it would help no one but Alinghi if we did that.''

Emirates Team New Zealand leader Dean Baker welcomed the chance to train with the defending champions.

``It's another opportunity to sail against the benchmark team that since 2003 has been the best,'' Baker said. ``To prepare for the (Louis Vuitton) Cup, what better way is there to get ready?''

Of the top four teams, only Luna Rossa will sail in its newest boat, ITA 94. Alinghi chose to race in the SUI 91, the first of two boats the Swiss team built to the latest America's Cup Class 5 standard, while BMW Oracle Racing will also race in its older boat, USA 87. Emirates Team New Zealand will sail in the NZL 84.

Still, Act 13 should be a good test for all the boats involved _ both against opponents and against themselves.

``We're getting ready to race,'' said +39 Challenge helmsman Iain Percy, whose team has been dogged by financial problems. ``It's a frantic moment in our own base but we're getting excited to see how we line up.''

Emirates Team New Zealand leads the rankings with 125 points, followed by BMW Oracle Racing with 123 and Luna Rossa Challenge with 118.

Act 13 is worth triple points with teams receiving bonus points since Alinghi is not factored into the standings. Points are carried into the round-robin stage of the Louis Vuitton Cup, which could mean the difference in a tiebreaker.

With a condensed sailing schedule leaving teams with little time to make changes to boats that haven't shown any radical hull or keel bulb transformations, there is a chance the competition could field the tightest race ever.

``I don't know if (the racing) will get any closer than last time but I certainly hope so,'' United Internet Team Germany skipper Jesper Bank said. ``It really depends on how the individual teams go ahead and use their packages which will make the biggest difference.''
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