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11 April 2005, 09:29 am
SCHNACKENBERG Action
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America's Cup 2007
Auckland, New Zealand

Former Team New Zealand boss Tom SCHNACKENBERG has taken legal action against the team, claiming it has deliberately shut him out of the next America's Cup.
The veteran sailor and boat designer, who held the syndicate together when Russell COUTTS (NZL) and Brad BUTTERWORTH (NZL) defected to Alinghi in 2000, has lodged papers in the High Court at Auckland claiming Team New Zealand's new leadership hired him only to stop him from moving to another team.

His lawyer said yesterday: 'Any of the syndicates would have him if they could.'

SCHNACKENBERG, 59, was the syndicate head of the disastrous 2003 cup defense, after which an independent report identified the management structure as the most important reason for the failure to retain the cup.

When round-the-world helmsman Grant DALTON was brought in to manage the next challenge, SCHNACKENBERG was demoted to the design team.

DALTON said yesterday that he was disappointed SCHNACKENBERG had decided to take court proceedings. He said the team thought their former boss had made an 'amicable departure'.

Team New Zealand had taken legal advice and the suit would be defended.

SCHNACKENBERG and his company, North Sails, are seeking to set aside a restraint-of-trade covenant in his agreement with Team New Zealand so he can join another syndicate.

The case has been set down for a preliminary hearing later this month when Team New Zealand is expected to file a statement of defense. The hearing is likely to be held in late May.

The action is the latest row in a sport that has become dominated by litigation. Last month COUTTS, the most successful helmsman in cup history, settled with Alinghi boss Ernesto BERTARELLI after he was fired last July.

SCHNACKENBERG, was sacked by DALTON in December.

The explanation was that SCHNACKENBERG's role had diminished to an extent that the best solution was for him to leave the team.

In his court papers, SCHNACKENBERG alleges he was with Team New Zealand for only three months in this campaign, once DALTON came on board, between 1 August and 31 October.

'We are alleging that the purpose for engaging him for a very short period at the early stage of the campaign was so that they could say 'now you can't go and work for anyone else',' said SCHNACKENBERG's lawyer, Kit TOOGOOD, QC.

Mr TOOGOOD said the case would turn on the reasonableness of the restraint of trade and the fairness of keeping SCHNACKENBERG out of the campaign altogether when they said they did not want him.

Asked which syndicate SCHNACKENBERG wanted to join, Mr TOOGOOD said that there were a number of possibilities: 'Any of the syndicates would have him if they could.'

SCHNACKENBERG has been involved in nine cup campaigns, the first in 1977, and has been describe as 'the best brain in yachting'.

Tony Stickley and Julie Ash (New Zealand Herald). Image, SCHNACKENBERG with Team NEW Zeland in 2003:© Nick Wilson/Getty Images
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