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Makeshift Team NZ read to defend lead

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 21/07/2016

Team New Zealand's reshuffled crew are looking to defend a slim 10-point lead when the seventh America's Cup World Series regatta begins in Portsmouth on Saturday (NZT).

With regular helmsman Peter Burling and crew Blair Tuke in Rio for their 49er Olympic gold medal bid, skipper Glenn Ashby admits his team will be up against it.

"We will change things up compared to what we normally do," he said.

"We have two new crew and four guys playing out of position, so that's a great opportunity for the guys to mix it up and for some new guys to get some experience.

"We're not putting any pressure on ourselves. If we can come out of this in the lead and enjoy ourselves and learn a bit, it will be a successful weekend."

After six events, the Kiwis head British outfit Land Rover BAR, led by Olympic gold medallist Sir Ben Ainslie, and Australian Jimmy Spithill's Oracle Team USA by 10 points.

Ashby will be taking the helm for the first time in the series, handing his wing trimming duties to tactician Ray Davies, but as a 16-times world champion he has plenty of experience in winning.

Long-time Team NZ bowman Richard Meacham also brings plenty of knowledge, while young grinder Sam Bell will provide plenty of extra muscle.

"Expect it to look ugly at times - I am certain we won't be the most polished of crews out there because these events allow very little time to train," Ashby said.

"But we have quality guys onboard and if we can all learn our respective roles quickly we might be OK."

Practice racing begins on Saturday, with points racing on Sunday and Monday (NZT).

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