Schnack Backs Bennett and the Chances of TNZ

Courtesy Team New Zealand

ESPN's Gary Jobson, Sailing World's editor at large, and Adrian Karsten caught up with Tom Schnackenberg during the extended weather-related delay between races three and four for a frank discussion on Team New Zealand, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, crew changes, and the future of the the America's Cup.

ESPN: Is Team New Zealand in regular communication with the race committee to decide whether to race or not?

Schnack: Only occasionally. They call when they need to consult people. Today for example, I think the race committee chairman called each syndicate. So it's sort of a tri-part decision, although it was made by the race committee chairman.

ESPN: Has the race committee made the proper decisions over the last nine days?

Schnack: I'm quite sure they have. When you look at the circumstances and the decisions rationally, it is quite clear that they have been made correctly.

ESPN: Has Team New Zealand benefited by the weather delays?

Schnack: Time will tell, but I think that having a couple of days rest between the last race and the next one is very beneficial. From now on, I don't think there is any benefit to be gained by delays and our team is keen to race.

ESPN: Is TNZ reluctant to race in the light winds?

Schnack: Well I would say any rational team is hesitant to race where the outcome of the race could be determined by the toss up of a coin. As long as there are fair conditions, they don't have to be fresh [winds]. Life is fine.

ESPN: The America's Cup uses an international jury [umpires] and international measurers. Is it time for an international race committee?

Schnack: It's traditional in the America's Cup [that the host yacht club runs the races] and it's always worked well and there is no real reason to change it.

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| Neither team wants this regatta decided by a random wind shift, says Tom Schackenberg, so the race committee has been justified in being picky about the wind conditions.* * *|

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ESPN: Tom, do you think this whole "international free agency" has gotten out of hand, with so many people skipping borders?

Schnack: In my opinion, it's a national contest, so it should be considered that way.

ESPN: When you read the "Deed of Gift," it's "a friendly competition between foreign countries." Do you think the America's Cup should go back to that?

Schnack: I think that it should. And I think that it will. This is just a bit of a hiccup in my opinion.

ESPN: So, If Team New Zealand keeps the Cup, would team push to get it back on that track?

Schnack: A little bit. Yes. I think the rules--the way they are now--have been difficult. The residency thing is vague. It's caused a lot of grief.

ESPN: What do you hope to receive with the new tactician, Bertrand Pacé?

Schnack: Ah, it's a very subtle thing. In the end it may not be very significant, but Bertrand is a very good tactician and he has worked very within the team and he knows all the strategies and all the tactics. We feel that he might add a bit of strength to the team.

ESPN: Tom, you have a lot of experience racing in the cup. Why aren't you on the boat?

Schnack: Well, it's more than experience required on the boat. You need skills and sharpness and strength and so on. Mike Drummond, who is the navigator in my place, is also very experienced. He's been with New Zealand right from the very beginning, even though he's not so visiblem and he's been a very good navigator for 10 years now. He's been getting better and better as time goes by so he is the logical choice as navigator.

ESPN: Is Dean Barker maturing through this cup?

Schnack: No. I think he has been mature for a while. But of course having said that every single person in the world learns something every day and Dean is like that. So the group as a whole has been learning from mistakes that occurred. Outside events weren't too good, but I think we are a little bit better than we were a week ago. I imagine the Alinghi guys are a little bit better than they were a week ago, too.

ESPN: Considering that TNZ is down 0-3 at this point, what is the confidence level in your boat?

Schnack: Our boat has shown a lot of promise. We passed them once quite successfully and in difficult conditions we looked comfortable upwind. The boat's performance fits in with our understanding of the way it should be so we have quite a bit of confidence in our performance predictions. We believe that our boat can do the job.

ESPN: What has to happen at this point for you to keep the cup?

Schnack: Well, we just have to win five races, that's all that has to happen and we'll take it one at a time and that is what we have to do tomorrow. That is the way we see it and having won tomorrow, we then have to win the next race and then we continue that way.