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Dalton mulls America's Cup role

Grant Dalton
Dalton has vast experience in round-the-world racing.

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- Kiwi round-the-world veteran sailor Grant Dalton has said that he is prepared to help Team New Zealand win back the America's Cup in 2007.

Team New Zealand lost the cup to Swiss syndicate Alinghi in February.

As the current crew contracts expire on March 31, about 80 team members gathered on Monday in Auckland to hear syndicate chairman Ralph Norris outline the future.

Norris and fellow Team New Zealand trustee Peter Menzies have approached Dalton to see what role he might be able to play.

"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."

Even though the New Zealand government has pledged US$3 million to prevent key members being poached by foreign syndicates, it is expected that most of the team will be laid off.

Since losing the Cup in a disastrous 5-0 final against Alinghi team, the New Zealand syndicate has been undergoing a "brutal and honest" review of what went wrong.

The main issue has been how the team ended up with the worst record in the 152-year history of the cup after failing to finish in two of the five races due to major mechanical breakdowns.

It seemed that the young sailing team, led by skipper Dean Barker, and the design team were inclined too far towards a search for innovative solutions rather than practical on-the-water testing.

There have been comparisons with the winning TNZ performance in 1995 and 2000 when Alinghi Russell Coutts, an engineering graduate, was the skipper and the late Peter Blake headed the syndicate.

Dalton is seen as coming from a similar mould to Blake, bringing practical offshore and organizational experience from his round-the-world victories.

Dalton is aware that it is important to start planning for the next America's Cup as soon as possible.

"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."

He also knows that finding the funding for a TNZ campaign in Europe will not be easy.

"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."

Running a campaign in Europe will not only be far more expensive than a home defense, it is also less attractive to the "family of five" local New Zealand companies that have traditionally supported TNZ. Funding for 2007 will most likely have to come from offshore sponsorship.

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

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