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McBeth: Not panic time yet

PUBLISHED: 9:20AM Sunday April 29, 2007 Source: ONE Sport

The first round robin of the Louis Vuitton Cup has ended with Emirates Team New Zealand's reputation hardly enhanced.

They began the series as the top team by virtue of the bonus points they had won during the pre-up regattas.

Most of the experts were predicting that the New Zealand syndicate would be fighting for top spot with BMW Oracle, but instead they have finished this initial section of the Cup in third place behind the Chris Dickson skippered Oracle, and Luna Rossa of Italy.

Three losses is not an impressive record for Team New Zealand, but it is not devastating. There is still the second series of races, and all they need to do is avoid getting caught by surprise by some of the lesser teams and they will qualify for the semi finals.

But the confidence of the crew must have taken a battering. Chris Dickson admitted he was keen to attack the New Zealand boat in the pre-start because he felt they might have been somewhat tentative after conceding a previous start to Luna Rossa.

Dickson got into a situation where he had Dean Barker at his mercy, but he could not quite finish the job and Team New Zealand escaped, only to be caught just after the first mark. They never recovered.

Team New Zealand is putting on a brave face. They know they are better than what they've shown so far. Consistency is not a strong point at present. Once that comes

and their confidence returns, they will be a formidable unit, but they can't wait too long.

Meanwhile it has been interesting talking to some of the many New Zealanders who are working for other syndicates.

Into the One Sport studio came big Carl Williams who, with Hamish Pepper, won the Star Class world title last year and was a finalist at the Halberg Awards. He was with Team New Zealand for the 2003 campaign but is now a grinder with BMW Oracle, and is thriving. The syndicate is allowing him to continue working with Hamish on their Olympic campaign.

Carl and all the other New Zealanders with the United States syndicate have small New Zealand flags on the sleeves of all their shirts. It is a nice little gesture which suggests that, even thought they might be working for a US team, they are still proud New Zealanders.

I also interviewed Andrew Taylor who has won the America's Cup in 1995 and 2003. He is now with Luna Rossa and he says he is as happy as ever working with the leading Italian syndicate.

There are dozens of New Zealanders here and probably all the challengers have a fair smattering of kiwi in their midst. Only three have no New Zealanders on their top sailing crew.

This is all just emphasising what an incredible sailing reputation our country has.

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