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America's Cup: Orient Express Racing Team win podium place at their first 37th America's Cup event

by Orient Express Racing Team 18 Sep 2023 16:51 NZST 18 September 2023
Start- America's Cup Preliminary Regatta - Day 3 - Vilanova - September 17, 2023 © Franck Socha

Orient Express Racing Team took their place on the podium after producing a positive performance and gaining valuable experience at the first America's Cup Preliminary Regatta in Vilanova i la Geltrú, Spain.

Despite having the least time aboard the high-performance foiling AC40 of any America's Cup team, the French Challenger posted a third place overall showing real pace around the racecourse.

As the only team to win a race apart from eventual finalists Emirates Team New Zealand and NYYC American Magic, the French team worked hard to finish best-of-the-rest to take the final place on the podium.

"It felt good out there today," said Kevin Peponnet, who shares piloting responsibilities with Quentin Delapierre alongside flight controllers Matthieu Vandame and Jason Saunders.

"It has been an incredible start for the team to get on the podium with less than 15 days of sailing on the boat. Over the last few days we have been able to analyse the mistakes we have made in sailing or tactics, and aim to erase it the following day."

Orient Express Racing Team showed increasing confidence in their starts over the course of the regatta, said Peponnet, adding: "We had some close calls today, and we got a penalty, so it was pretty intense for us. Of course we have a lot of work to do to catch the top two, American Magic and Emirates Team New Zealand, who were very impressive today. But it has given us a bit more confidence and there is a really good dynamic in the team." Kevin Peponnet, pilot

The New Zealand and US teams qualified for the match race finale, with the American team declared the event winner after the decider was abandoned in a dying breeze.

Orient Express Racing Team went into the third and final day today leading the fleet after their race victory and a third place in light and variable conditions on Saturday which had followed the abandonment of racing on Friday due to thunderstorms.

Two successive fifth places dropped the French team down the order before a highly competitive third place in Sunday's final fleet race saw them move clear of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, Alinghi Red Bull Racing and INEOS Britannia on the overall leaderboard.

"We came here to learn and to test ourselves against the others, something we hadn't done before. We had a lot of questions. We didn't expect to be in the lead or on the podium. Today is a big reward for us because there were some close races. We were able to score points and make very few mistakes.

"We're very proud. We didn't expect to be at this level. We savoured yesterday's first win, which was very nice, and today we said to ourselves that we were going to take our chances."

"We're the underdog, the last to arrive, and we now know that we can play on equal terms, even if there's still lots of work to be done." Stephan Kandler, CEO

The Orient Express Racing Team will return to action in the second America's Cup Preliminary Regatta which is being held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from 29 November to 2 December, in a further warm-up before the 37th America's Cup in Barcelona in 2024.

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