New Zealand may not be able to afford to challenge for the America's Cup if Team New Zealand lose to Prada

New Zealand may not be able to afford to challenge for the America’s Cup if Team New Zealand lose to Prada, syndicate head Sir Peter Blake says. He said New Zealand would struggle to get the funding to get another campaign underway.

Team New Zealand defend the cup against the Italians in a best-of-nine series starting on Saturday. They are warm favourites to become the first ever syndicate to challenge, win and retain the trophy. Five sponsors have underwritten the defence — Steinlager, TV One, Lotto, Telecom and Toyota. But all five are tied to the current campaign and end after the racing.

Team New Zealand, a charitable trust, also winds up after the match. Sir Peter said Team New Zealand did not talk about what may or may not be after the cup. “It’s really just a case of wait and see if we win or not,” he told NZPA. “If we don’t win, I think you might find New Zealand is not involved in the next America’s Cup, purely because of raising the money.”

Sir Peter would not speculate on the chances of raising sufficient funds for another defence. The current campaign’s budget is $40 million. “It doesn’t really concern anybody at the moment, we’re not worried about it.”

Team New Zealand skipper Russell Coutts, tactician Brad Butterworth and design co-ordinator Tom Schnackenberg are keen to be involved in another campaign, and Sir Peter said they were the “natural” people to do so. Sir Peter said there had been “squabbles” within Team New Zealand, but the team is completely united heading into the America’s Cup this weekend.

Auckland’s cup village, notorious for speculation and conjecture, has been awash with rumours of tension in the camp, particularly between the top sailors and some of the management. Sir Peter said there would always be tension in an organisation like Team New Zealand. “It’s pointless thinking there won’t be. You’d be a pretty poor outfit if you didn’t have the odd scrap,” Sir Peter said. “We have strong leaders within our team here. Russell has to run the sailing team, that’s a big job. “Tom Schnackenberg runs the design team, Tim Gurr runs the boat-building team, and they work horrendous hours.”

Sir Peter said his role as syndicate head was to ensure that overall Team New Zealand operated correctly, but the individuals in the design, sailing and building teams were responsible to their leaders. “We’ve got strong individuals. We don’t want, and we didn’t want, yes-men around. “There’s no point in me sitting here and calling the shots on the crew or the sail shape. It’d be quite ridiculous because it would make us weaker. “Just like families, you have disagreements. We have our family squabbles, we sort them all out and we carry on. “Right now, we’re a highly united bunch of people who have one foe in mind, and that’s down the road there with the red stripe (Prada).”

Coutts declined to comment on the rumours saying, “that’s not a good question to ask”. Team New Zealand yesterday announced they would race their newer and slightly narrower boat NZL60 in the regatta. Under the rules Prada must race ITA45, used in the challenger finals. Both syndicates unveil their keels and rudders today, and with official measuring complete, no changes can now be made to the boats.