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French nuclear firm aids Cup bid

French boat
The French syndicate was popular during the last America's Cup  

LONDON, England (CNN) - French nuclear energy company Areva has announced a €15 million sponsorship of the French America's Cup challenge.

After over two months of rumours, Areva, announced the sponsorship of Le Defi in Paris on Friday.

Areva, involved in mining, power generation and reprocessing of nuclear fuels, was formed by the French government in September 2001. It operates 60 plants in 29 countries and has 45,000 employees worldwide.

The America's Cup will begin in October in New Zealand, a strongly anti-nuclear country which prohibits nuclear weapons and propulsion.

The regatta will give Areva a worldwide opportunity to promote nuclear industry.

While the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron has banned tobacco sponsorship in the America's Cup in line with New Zealand government legislation against tobacco advertising in television and sports sponsorship, there is nothing to prevent nuclear sponsorship.

The French team were very popular during the last America's Cup regatta in New Zealand, playing the role of underdogs and surprising many people when they made the semi-finals of the 2000 Louis Vuitton Cup.

Their budget was tight but they had a great skipper in Bertrand Pace and a fast boat. Pace has now defected to Team New Zealand.

This time the budget has been trebled but, at an estimated $26 million, it remains modest compared with the $50 million-plus America's Cup war chests of the billionaire syndicates of Craig McCaw (USA OneWorld), Larry Ellison (USA Oracle) and Ernesto Bertarelli (Swiss Alinghi) and Patrizio Bertelli (Italy Prada).

Le Defi have recently opened a new team base in Lorient which provides the same range of sailing conditions as the Hauraki Gulf, Auckland, and a new boat is under construction at Multiplast in France.


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