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30 March 2003, 02:38 pm
Dalton Prepared to Fill Sir Peter Blake|s Shoes
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America's Cup

Kiwi yachting legend Grant Dalton is prepared to help Team New Zealand's quest to win back the America's Cup.
Team New Zealand is expected to announce tomorrow that it is pushing ahead with a challenge for the 2007 regatta in Europe, despite few commitments from sponsors.

The internal inquiry into Team New Zealand losing the cup to Swiss syndicate Alinghi is said to have been "honest and brutal". One of the criticisms has been the lack of a strong central figure like the late Sir Peter Blake.

Round-the-world winner Dalton is seen to be from a similar mould and he has been approached by Team New Zealand trustees Peter Menzies and Ralph Norris.

"A job like that is a huge challenge and as a passionate Kiwi it's hard to say no to a challenge," said Dalton.

"I am interested but it all depends on terms and conditions. I understand Team New Zealand is keen to challenge."

Dalton said there was a need to get things rolling quickly.

"Things that happen now will decide how 2007 pans out. I don't believe it's as desperate as 2000 when huge chequebooks were waved around to get our best sailors. But we can't afford to lose key people again.

"It's a catch 22 situation at the moment - people won't commit money without a team and direction but it's hard to commit a team without funding.

"I see it similar to 1992 when out of the ashes of defeat rose a phoenix that went on to win and defend the Cup. We have the skill to do that again."

Dalton's strengths go beyond his sailing ability. He has a good understanding of design, knows how to organise a campaign and, importantly, has strong contacts overseas at a time when Team New Zealand funding is likely to be built around offshore sponsorship.

"Getting the America's Cup back is one of the biggest issues facing New Zealand sport and industry," he said.

A challenge in Europe will be expensive. The Sunday Star-Times understands major sponsor SAP, one of the world's biggest e-solutions providers, has indicated a willingness to stay involved. Team New Zealand met with its family of five sponsors last week. Executive director Tony Thomas is heading to Europe seeking sponsorship opportunities there.

There will also be an increased government investment, perhaps backing the campaign on a $1 for every $2 raised by Team New Zealand. That could be announced tomorrow.
Duncan Johnstone
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