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Team New Zealand Casting a Watchful Eye

Team New Zealand Casting a Watchful Eye

With the challenging teams refusing to match up against Team New Zealand before the America’s Cup, the Kiwis are watching the Louis Vuitton racing very closely to assess who they might meet in February.

Skipper Russell Coutts said his team is out racing and tuning their two new boats against each other, but that the team is working in isolation compared to the challenging syndicates. 'Obviously we’re very interested in how the challengers are performing…there’s some very good sailing teams out there,' he said.

But so far, the challengers have refused to schedule any ‘fun’ races against Team New Zealand between the Louis Vuitton Cup round-robin series.

'In 1995, we would’ve quite looked forward to sailing against the defenders…but some of the challengers think that they have an advantage', Coutts said, 'we’ll have to wait ‘till February to see.'

New Zealand design guru Tom Schnakenberg said the advantage to the challengers is, 'they are closer to gaining ideas from their neighbours…we’re missing out on a lot of the inputs they’re getting. We’re working away by ourselves to prepare for just 9 races.'

Hamish Pepper, mainsheet trimmer for Team New Zealand said, 'any chance to race any of the challengers is going to be beneficial'.

Brad Butterworth, team tactician, joked that he thinks it’s rude of the challengers not to line up before the big event.

'It’s like inviting someone over for dinner and they don’t eat what you cook them, we invited them down here to go sailing and they don’t want to go sailing. It’s rude'.

Schnakenberg said he’s 'impressed' by the range of designs the challengers have brought to the table, but he refused to guess who was fastest. 'I’d only look foolish.' He said it’s just too early to pick favourites - not all the syndicates are showing their full potential.

He also played coy about rumours of a radical mast design for Black Magic. 'We’ll just have to wait and see…we need a little bit of mystery in our campaign'.

And denied the opportunity to measure themselves against the challengers, mystery is something that is not lacking for Team New Zealand. How fast are they?? Don’t expect to find out before February.

- Peter Rusch

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