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6 March 2003, 12:33 pm
New Zealand Government Provides Interim Funding For 2007 Challenge
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© Photo Wave/Louis Vuitton

Team New Zealand

While an internal analysis is launched into the 2003 defeat, plans are being laid for a 2007 challenge with seed funding committed from the New Zealand Government.
The New Zealand Government has stepped in to provide Team New Zealand with $NZ5.6 million to seed the formation of an America's Cup Challenge in 2007.

"The new funding will allow Team New Zealand to start the process of re-signing key team members," said Minister for the America's Cup, Trevor Mallard. "Without it, the human capital and intellectual property built up by Team New Zealand could disperse, putting at serious risk New Zealand's ongoing participation in the America's Cup.

"If this happens, all our best sailing, design and boat building talent will be forced to join foreign syndicates and related industries, which would be a tragedy for New Zealand yachting and for New Zealand. We don't want to see that happen."

Mallard said any additional Government support for Team New Zealand would be assessed after a full study of the potential economic benefits that could be leveraged and would be entirely dependent on the team receiving significant commercial sponsorship. The announcement was made at a media conference at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

Already, positive, but not firm, indications of support have been given publicly by SAP, the German-based software company, and from Toyota. New Zealand clothing manufacturer, Line 7, have also pledged support.

Chief executive Ross Munro said the company had backed the team for the past 10 years. "We were the second major cash contributer in the past two campaigns," he said. "The team has been fantastic for our business and we have been good for them. If they go again, we will be in again."

Mallard said the New Zealand Government was confident the next America's Cup would provide New Zealand with the chance to develop and expand on the trade and tourism opportunities created over the past eight years.

"Through the success of Team New Zealand, New Zealand has been showcased as an innovative, creative nation," he said. "The Louis Vuitton and America's Cup regattas have highlighted New Zealand's strengths in the areas of boat and sail design and boatbuilding and drawn attention to New Zealand as a perfect destination for high value tourism."

Mallard said the Government's decision to get behind Team New Zealand was based on "economic and not romantic" considerations.

While feasibility studies are conducted into mounting a challenge, Team New Zealand is also conducting a major internal analysis of what went wrong with its 2003 defence. "Any loss is potentially more valuable than any win in terms of learning lessons," said skipper Dean Barker. "Our whole team benefits greatly from what we have been through. That doesn't soften the blow, or make people feel better about losing the Cup."

He said that while no firm commitment had yet been made to mounting a challenge, "I can think of nothing better than staying with Team New Zealand and going to challenge for the Cup".

Syndicate head Tom Schnackenberg said the fact that the Cup was going to Europe opened new opportunities for companies wanting to sponsor Team New Zealand. Addressing the issue of Team New Zealand's performance in 2003, Schnackenberg said he was aware of many rumours about what went wrong. He said the results of Team New Zealand's internal analysis would not be made public. "We are an on-going concern. The lessons are for us to know. To the extent that we have paid for those lessons, they are part of our assets."

For the record, though, he said there were no problems with workmanship around the campaigns, either from contractors, the main boatbuilders (Cookson Boats) or from the team boatbuilders. As to rumours about NZL-82 having been involved in collisions, or suffering leaking rudders, he said nothing happened to the boat that was not seen on television. "We pushed the boat harder than we had in our in-house racing and we came short," he said.

He said the investigation would look at the wider management issues of the way the team organized itself, how it trained and how it prepared itself. Schnackenberg said previous America's Cup campaigns had come back from bad defeats.

Team Dennis Conner had bounced back from losing the Cup in 1983 to winning it back in 1987. Similarly, Team New Zealand had won the Cup in 1995 on the back of New Zealand defeats in 1987, 1988 and 1992.

Chief executive Ross Blackman acknowledged that a campaign in Europe would be expensive, but noted that Team New Zealand was one of the most established brands in the America's Cup game. "We do have a tradition and history of understanding how to win the Cup."

Team New Zealand executive director Tony Thomas recalled that in the 1960s and 1970s, the McLaren motor-racing team put New Zealand technology on the map by campaigning successfully in Europe. "Team New Zealand has the ability to do the same to a much larger audience," he said.
Ivor Wilkins/ISAF Secretariat
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