Emirates Team New Zealand has taken the first steps in its European campaign for the 2007 America's Cup

Emirates Team New Zealand today took the first steps in its European campaign for the 2007 America’s Cup as race yacht NZL82 was loaded on board the P&O Nedlloyd containership Botany bound for Europe.

Also loaded on the ship at Ports of Auckland’s container terminal was NZL57, the trial yacht from the successful 2000 defence which has been sold to the French K Challenge syndicate.

Accompanying the yachts is the Team’s 60ft (18.2m) tender, a 40ft container loaded with sails, gears and spares, a fully equipped workshop built into another 40ft container and a 40ft (12.2m) chase boat.

The yachts will be offloaded at La Spezia in Italy and the tender will tow both yachts and the chase boat 240 nautical miles across the Mediterranean Sea to Marseille.

NZL82 will compete in America’s Cup 2007 pre-regattas at Marseille and Valencia in September and October. At the end of the regattas the process will be reversed. NZL82 will be towed from Spain to Italy and shipped back to Auckland for the team’s summer sailing programme on the Hauraki Gulf.

Emirates Team New Zealand managing director Grant Dalton said that today marked the most visible start of the long road to Valencia in 2007. “We are on our way from New Zealand ? the team will start assembling in Marseille in late August and then it’s almost straight into the Marseille regatta which starts on 5 September. We are very interested to see how much progress Alinghi and BMW Oracle have made since the last America’s Cup. They have spent a lot of time on the water training and they have raced at San Francisco and Newport so we expect them to have something of an edge.

“The yacht will be ready to race on 5 September and the team will have had a few days together to get used to the yacht and each other. Three of the afterguard (Dean Barker on helm, strategist Ben Ainslie and navigator Kevin Hall) will be only a few days out of their Olympic campaigns so they’ll have to make a swift transition from racing dinghies to 80ft keelers. We’re optimistic, but we’re realistic about Marseille. I think that by Valencia we will be looking stronger.”