By Humphrey Carter
PALMA may not entirely miss out on a slice of the America's Cup action as the Spanish syndicate will either base itself in the Majorcan capital or Barcelona. Despite Valencia winning the bid to host the 2007 regatta, the El Reto Spanish Challenge team, with actor Antonio Banderas the biggest sponsor, has extensively inspected both ports and team bosses are set to make a final decision next week. The sailing team is currently headed by leading Spanish yachtsman Agustin Zulueta, but the skipper of Banco Espirito Santo, Jose Luis Doreste is favourite to skipper Spain's America's Cup challenge. It was Agustin Zulueta who said himself this week that the syndicate wants to reach a decision as to where it will base its race camp before Christmas so that the team can start work on its challenge in the New Year. “It's going to be a difficult decision and not one I will be making alone,” he said. “There's no clear favourite, although it will probably be either Palma or Barcelona,” Zulueta, who raced as part of Spain's America's Cup challenges in 1992, 1995 and 1999, said. Spanish syndicate bosses have visited Palma over the past few weeks for a final inspection, examining the possible training and boat construction areas. “We're in negotiations with the Balearic government, we're all well aware of the fact that this is a unique opportunity for Palma. It's got great conditions and we like the government's offer, but we don't want to give people false impressions, the Barcelona offer is also very attractive,” Zulueta said. 20 percent of the Spanish challenge is being backed by the leading Spanish actor Antonio Banderas, whose brother is one of Spain's up and coming skippers. Jose Luis Doreste has a 12 percent share while a number of leading Spanish yachtsmen and women make up the rest of the backers.
A top team of yacht designers and builders has been brought together to take care of constructing the race vessel with an initial budget of 50 million euros, although the yachts will be altered and refined over the next few years as all the syndicates try to perfect their yachts. Palma was hoping to host the entire event, but despite public backing from Michael Douglas and his wife Catherine Zeta Jones, the America's Cup committee decided it unfair that Spain should have two entries and rejected Palma's bid on the eve of the committee sitting to reach its final decision. The final was between Naples, Marseilles, Lisbon and Valencia, the latter won.

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