Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

America's Cup: Rivals work together to defeat Cup holder

There is intrigue over which boat the Italians will sail against Team NZ. Photo / Chris Cameron.
There is intrigue over which boat the Italians will sail against Team NZ. Photo / Chris Cameron.

Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa's unique collaborative approach to the 34th America's Cup will continue in the coming weeks, with the Italian team pledging to help the Kiwis in any way they can to wrest the Cup from Oracle's clutches.

Luna Rossa have agreed to help Dean Barker and his crew tune up for the America's Cup match by playing the role of trial horse in the lead-up to the September showdown. But there is intrigue over which boat the Italians will sail against Team NZ.

The rumour mill was in overdrive at the America's Cup Park that instead of sailing their own AC72, Luna Rossa would race Team NZ's first-generation boat, which will be reconfigured in the coming days. The way the two teams dodged the question at yesterday's closing press conference did little quell those rumours.

"You should ask [Luna Rossa skipper] Max [Sirena] that question," said Team NZ boss Grant Dalton, while Sirena joked his team would quite like to sail the Kiwi team's second boat.

"Obviously we will do whatever we can to improve them [Team NZ] if we can," Sirena said.

It is likely that whichever boat the Italians do race, it will be taken out of measure and fitted with a few illegal modifications so the Kiwi crew will have a fast boat to pace themselves against.

It is a rather curious arrangement for two rivals to be in, but from the very start of the campaign Team NZ and Luna Rossa have effectively been working in tandem to try to bring down the defender. A lot of people saw Team NZ's decision to sell their design package for the first boat to Luna Rossa as being only of benefit to the Italians. Dalton said the reality was that they couldn't have made it to the start line without them.

Team NZ desperately needed the extra money for their campaign, while the ability to test the performance of their boat against the Italians in Auckland over summer was vital to their preparations.

"It's sort of interesting sitting here with the Luna Rossa guys - usually you see the guys you've beaten as your enemy and your foe but it's quite surreal because it is an enormously strong relationship, we wouldn't have been here without them," said Dalton.

"We're sort of half-Italian in that respect - only we're not as good with the chicks as Max," said Dalton, gesturing towards the Luna Rossa skipper.

Should Team NZ win the Cup, their strong relationship will extend to the next event, with Luna Rossa likely to be the challenger of record. Although some reports have claimed Luna Rossa owner Patrizio Bertelli will be involved only if Team NZ were to revert to the traditional monohulls, he told Italian media he would accept monohulls or multihulls.

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- NZ Herald

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