Yachting: Team NZ ship out for Valencia

By Julie Ash

Emirates Team New Zealand are ready to embark on the next part of their mission to reclaim the America's Cup.

The syndicate's summer training programme in Auckland has ended and the team are now packing up and heading to Europe for this year's six pre-cup regattas or "acts".

NZL82 will be shipped to Valencia next week for the first regatta in June. Most of the sailing crew will compete in various regattas until they are required in Spain.

While main rivals Alinghi, Oracle and Luna Rossa are set up and sailing in Valencia - the host city of the 2007 event - Team New Zealand managing director Grant Dalton is confident it was in his team's best interests to conduct a training programme in Auckland during the European winter.

"They were literally sitting by the fire in their snow shoes until recently," Dalton said.

NZL82, the boat that broke down twice during the last cup, has been modified to comply with the latest design rules. The yacht no longer has its hull appendage and has a new bow and stern. There have also been changes to the rig and appendages as part of ongoing development.

The rules allow only 60 per cent of the surface area of the hull to be changed.

The removal of the hula appendage used 35 per cent of that.

Dalton said NZL82 appeared to be going well but until they lined it up against the opposition it was difficult to tell.

He was, however, able to shed some light on one of the great mysteries of the last cup - the hula and its effectiveness.

"We are pretty clear now that there was no advantage at all to the hula from the testing we have seen."

Dalton said the syndicate have taken plenty of confidence from Dean Barker's win in the Congressional Cup, where he beat Russell Coutts in the final.

"It's simply a brick in the wall," Dalton said. "But any strike is a good strike, and we'll take it."

Barker, Ben Ainslie and Kelvin Harrap and their respective match racing teams will compete in a number of regattas throughout the year.

Ainslie, who was Barker's strategist in last year's regattas, will sit out this year's acts to work on his helming skills.

"I had to make a decision whether to concentrate on helming or the original role of doing the weather and strategy," Ainslie said. "I enjoyed steering more so I thought I'd stick with that.

"The consequences are I don't get to race on the race boat, which is obviously a little bit of a shame, but in the future I want to helm so I have to start somewhere."

The syndicate yesterday unveiled a swanky portable kitchen which will be shipped to Europe.

Their Valencia base will also be made here, a cheaper option than the reported $11 million Alinghi is spending.

AMERICA'S CUP

* Acts 4 and 5: Valencia June 16-26

* Acts 5 and 7: Sweden Aug 25-Sep 4

* Acts 8 and 9: Sicily Sep 29-Oct 9

The Acts will be used to help seed the challengers for the 2007 challenger series.

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