America's Cup: Dalton won't be back for another tilt at Cup

By Michael Brown, Claire Trevett

The future of Team New Zealand is in doubt and team boss Grant Dalton thinks his association with the America's Cup is over after Oracle retained the Auld Mug in San Francisco this morning.

There had been doubt about whether Team New Zealand would be able to challenge again if they didn't win the Cup this time around because of the huge financial toll and Dalton had big doubts.

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"It's too early to say,'' Dalton said when asked if they will challenge again. "It will be quite difficult now. I always felt that it would be difficult for the team to stay together, particularly financially. There's probably will there but I have probably done my time.''

Dalton has been boss of Team New Zealand since the failed campaign in Auckland in 2003. The 56-year-old, who often sailed as a grinder on board the AC72s and for some time was seen as a lucky charm, came close in Valencia in 2007 when they were beaten by Alinghi 5-2 in the America's Cup match and then again this year when it came down to a winner-take-all final race.

"I am gutted,'' he said. "My job now is to really support the guys and sponsors and suck it in, really. At 8-1, I said to the team we have to close this out because I have a feeling here [Oracle are on the comeback]. I probably slept better in the last two days than I slept a week ago because I sensed it was coming.

The luck evens itself out, I guess. We had opportunities to close it out and we didn't.

"They sailed really well. They have just got better and better. They got a minute and a half faster upwind than they were nine days ago. We were 50 seconds a beat quicker and now they are 50 seconds quicker. They have done a really amazing job to turn it around.''

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An emotional skipper Dean Barker broke down in tears after the final race. He is an talented sailor and would have no trouble finding another team to sail with in the future - but only if he wants to.

"Dean is a class act and he's feeling it more than I ever thought he would,'' Dalton said.

"He's pretty emotional. The guys are rallying around him. He's given it everything, as we all have and we were beaten, in the end, by a faster boat.''

Team New Zealand sailed a faultless race today, winning the start and leading for the first two legs before Oracle overtook them on the upwind leg.

"We went out there today to give it our absolute best shot and we felt we didn't leave anything on the table,'' Barker said. "We got a good start, led around mark one and that's all we could ask for. We knew upwind we had a huge fight on out hands and when you're sailing a boat that's going that fast it's very hard to swallow.

"I'm incredibly proud of our team and what they've achieved and I'm gutted that we didn't get the last win that we needed to take the Cup back to New Zealand. It's very hard to swallow.''

PRIME MINISTER JOHN KEY SAYS LOSS WAS "GUT WRENCHING"



Prime Minister John Key says Team New Zealand's loss today was "gut wrenching" but he believed there would be a lot of pride in New Zealand about the way it had conducted itself.

"I think there'll be an awful lot of New Zealanders who were sitting there with their heads in their hands, imagining a 9-8 result had gone the other way or we had managed to take the Cup a lot earlier on."

Team NZ had thrown everything it had at the race and it had been a long campaign, he said.

"I just really feel for the team. They've worked not just for weeks, not just for months, but for years on this campaign. That Oracle syndicate has got an enormous amount of money behind it and we're a little country a long way away. We happen to be very good at sailing but we are really up against a big cheque book."

He said decisions were yet to be held about whether the Government would put in funds to mount another campaign or to try to ensure Team NZ could retain key people.

However, he indicated it was likely, and hoped to discuss whether another campaign was possible.

"It's too early to have those discussions today. [Team NZ] I am sure will want to regroup, think about what their next steps are and we will want to sit down and have a discussion with them. But you'd have to say in the course of the last few weeks, the country has been gripped by what it's seen and in terms of New Zealand getting profile, it's really got a great deal of profile during both the Louis Vuitton and the America's Cup."

He believed the $36 million given to Team NZ by the Government was well spent. However it was not just about what the Government was willing to do.

"There's a lot of things you have to consider before you put taxpayers' money on the line."

Although many New Zealanders loved sport, he accepted that there were those who didn't believe government money should be used for sport events such as upgrading Eden Park for the Rugby World Cup, or co-hosting the Cricket World Cup.

However he said they did create opportunities, and if New Zealand did win the Cup and brought it back it would pay off.

"When you put it in the context of that, sometimes the Government putting some money on the line doesn't seem so bad. But New Zealanders work hard to pay their taxes and they expect the Government to be serious and careful about the way they spend their money."

He said congratulations also had to go to the Americans.

"Frankly, the American boat went faster today and there's probably not a lot New Zealand could actually do about that. We've run a big campaign, it's been a long campaign and I think for the team it will be a tough sort of pill to swallow. But I'm personally very proud of them. I think they've showed New Zealand on a world stage what we're capable of, and that we have some great technology and great people. But it just wasn't enough to get us ourselves that last lurch over the line."

Mr Key tweeted "bugger" straight after the loss, which he had watched with wife Bronagh and his staff after cancelling a meeting with Malta so he could watch it.

"The race sort of finished and I just looked at Bronagh and said 'bugger'. We thought that probably summed it up."

His press secretary had sent the tweet for him on his account, Mr Key said.

- APNZ

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