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Team New Zealand will bounce back strongly

  • Tuesday, 11th March 2003
  • Reading time: about 3 minutes

Team New Zealand syndicate head Tom Schnackenberg said Thursday that its defeated America’s Cup yacht, NZL-82, was not constructed with fatal flaws.

New Zealand surrendered the Cup on Sunday to Alinghi of Switzerland, swept 5-0 in a best-of-nine race series in which its black boat twice failed to complete even half of an 18.5-nautical-mile course. NZL-82 filled with water, fractured and almost sank within minutes of the start of race one and snapped its 35-meter (110-foot) carbon fiber mast after three of six legs in race four.

Schnackenberg said he was involved in an extensive analysis of design and other aspects of the New Zealand campaign, an attempt to discover how the US$50 million project went so disastrously wrong. Because it needed to protect its design secrets, it was unlikely the cause of Team New Zealand’s repeated breakages would ever be publicly revealed, he said. “”I can say a few things,”” Schnackenberg said at a news conference Tuesday at which the New Zealand government pledged 5.6 million New Zealand dollars (U$2.4 million) to keep alive the damaged syndicate. “”There are a lot of rumors flying around and one is that there is a common thread in things that happened.

“”We admit we were very gung ho in the design of the yacht, the rig and the way we put things together. We felt, I think rightly, that we were up against a very formidable challenge and we pushed the design envelope. “”In every aspect we wanted to be as good as we could and make as much progress as we could in every single area. That’s the common thread that comes through.

“”The other thing that comes through is that I can say there was absolutely no problem with workmanship anywhere around the campaign whether it was the contractors, the main boatbuilders, our own boatbuilders in the team or the riggers and so on.

“”We could never look at anything and say this is a workmanship problem.””

Schnackenberg said NZL-82 had not suffered a major structural failure in its first race and was never subsequently able to perform to its potential. “”The third thing I can say is that despite the various stories going around nothing happened to NZL-82 that you didn’t see on television,”” he said. “”There were no collisions between the boats, no rudder bearings leaking or strange things happening that were undisclosed.””

Schnackenberg said while Team New Zealand’s defeat was disappointing, it might draw on that disappointment for strength in future campaigns. Its own history suggested it had the capacity to build success out of past setbacks. “”We believe that we can bounce from this to a very strong position,”” he said.

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