Emirates Team New Zealand could quit the America's Cup and race in the Volvo Round The World yacht race instead if America's Cup court wrangling continues.

They could, in theory, do both. That would probably need economic circumstances to change and more sponsorship on board.

But the hiatus in the America's Cup has woken the possibility New Zealand's yachting team could turn back to the international race with which New Zealand has the longest ties - dating back to 1977 when Heath's Condor competed in what was then the Whitbread and those thrilling duels between Sir Peter Blake and Grant Dalton, now Team NZ boss.

Last week, the one-on-one 'big boat' Cup challenge between holders Alinghi and BMW Oracle was set for February 2010. The venue has yet to be decided - most predict it will still be in Valencia - and Alinghi have the right to change it.

More vexing, however, is the possibility more court action under the Deed of Gift could nudge the America's Cup off line in its course towards the date most consider likely for a real, multi-challenger event in conventional monohulls - 2011.

That is the date Team New Zealand's current funding runs out, pending re-negotiation. It is also the date of the start of the next Volvo yacht race - appropriately enough from here in Alicante.

That has also woken the possibility the Volvo might again include Auckland as a stage and a stopover - even though cities around the world are pitching millions of dollars to attract the race which went into a slide some years back but which is regaining international momentum.

Dalton says: "We have to consider whether we are in the right event. We exist at this point as an America's Cup team, not a Volvo team. But we are a New Zealand team and a brand which is so strong that we can't allow it to fizzle out."

His belief is that 2011 will see a conventional America's Cup regatta no matter who wins the February 2010 challenge. However, Team NZ cannot wait until that is all decided. They have to "read the tea leaves" to try to discern if the Cup will take place by 2011 or be subject to more delays from courtroom action between Ernesto Bertarelli of Alinghi and Larry Ellison of Oracle.

They have to decide when to make their move, if such a move is needed, and that is tricky.

"The challenge from the yachting community to Alinghi now has to be to write the rules fairly [for the February challenge] for both parties," he says. "The Deed of Gift talks about normal racing rules so we don't want Alinghi to start making rules not considered normal under the Deed."

Dalton believes the possibility for another court challenge after the February event is slim. He acknowledges it is possible so he is making plans now.

"If they win, I would suggest Oracle would put their name to a conventional regatta in 2011. I can't see any reason why Alinghi wouldn't do the same if they won. They must know the other teams aren't prepared to bow down to dictatorship."

If there are delays, Dalton sees the Volvo as a viable alternative and possibly even as a double act.

The latter would require "a different structure" - two teams - and a new boat or boats, new crews and more support. Current America's Cup skipper Dean Barker has expressed an interest in doing his first round-the-world race, says Dalton.

The ticklish bit is the timing if it is an "either-or" proposition. Move to the Volvo too soon and Team NZ could be caught out if the Cup stays on the rails. Move too late and they risk being in limbo.

"It is possible that things will be pushed out to 2013, though I think the people saying that are not really sure - but it is possible we could then do the Volvo in 2011 and the Cup in 2013, for example."

The links between Dalton and Volvo race boss Knut Frostad are an important dimension. Frostad competed at the same time as the famous Blake-Dalton duels. Dalton calls him "a street guy".

"He's come up the same way I have, knocking on doors and asking people for money. Knut knows Auckland can't afford to pay the millions other cities are paying for a Volvo stage. They're keen to get Auckland back; he knows that it is kind of the spiritual home of the round the world yacht race, too, so there might be other ways."