Team New Zealand skipper Russell Coutts intends taking a tougher line on disputes when the America's Cup yachting defence begins in Auckland next February.
Team New Zealand skipper Russell Coutts intends taking a tougher line on disputes when the America’s Cup yachting defence begins in Auckland next February. Coutts was in his old home town today to promote his book “Americas Cup 2000.”
“I won’t be worried about making us unpopular,” Coutts said. “My focus is on winning and retaining the cup.” Dennis Conner, probably the greatest yachtsman in America’s Cup history, was noted for his hard line approach. “That is why he battled so hard on and off the water,” Coutts said. “It’s not a popularity contest.”
Coutts pointed to the improvements made to Auckland’s Viaduct Basin in preparation for the America’s Cup defence. “The nice thing for us is to be able to defend the cup in our own country,” Coutts said. “It has tangible and intangible spin-offs.
“There is a big stake and a big prize. It is not just the silverware. “When the stakes are so high, you do get into disputes and arguments. That is just the nature of the game and is something New Zealand will have to get better at.”
Coutts expects a much tougher contest than in 1995 when New Zealand’s Black Magic beat Dennis Conner 5-0. “No one will dominate this year and the margin will probably be 5-3,” he said.
“I’m not taking it for granted that we will have the fastest boat. It is highly likely that one of the challengers will have a boat at least equal to Team New Zealand.
“We can win the cup. It depends how we race on the day.” Prada, the Italian syndicate, is leading the challenger series at the moment. But Coutts expects other teams to improve. “It wouldn’t be a surprise if some other syndicate was at the starting line for the final,” he said.
“We saw it happen in 1987 when Dennis Conner almost didn’t make the semifinals. But he changed his boat and the way he was campaigning and won easily.” The same thing happened in 1992 when New Zealand were the early leaders but were overtaken by Italy.
“It’s early days yet,” Coutts said. “I wouldn’t rule a syndicate like Nippon out of the equation yet. They will use a different boat in the next round.” Conner’s Stars and Stripes syndicate are lying third at the moment and this has surprised most people.
“They have improved their boat and know how to campaign,” Coutts said.