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Spithill hints at split in Team NZ ranks

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 25/05/2017

Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill has introduced mind games to the pre-America's Cup jousting, suggesting there is division within the ranks of Team NZ.

Australian Spithill's provocative comments captured most attention when the skippers of the six teams in Bermuda conducted a final press conference on Friday (NZT).

Racing was scheduled to start in the 35th edition of the regatta on Saturday but has been pushed back a day because of forecast strong winds.

Spithill, who steered Team USA to a famous 9-8 win over the Kiwi syndicate in the 2013 Cup Match off San Francisco, earned a reputation as a sailor capable of getting under the skin of Team NZ.

His notoriety looks set to continue after hinting some of Team NZ's sailors are at odds with the philosophy of their chief executive Grant Dalton.

They chose to conduct most of their build-up separate from the five other syndicates, who had formed an off-water relationship of sorts.

The syndicates drew up a long-term plan for the long-term future of the regatta but didn't get support from Team NZ.

Dalton wants to restore some of the traditions of the America's Cup which he says have been lost under Team USA's current stewardship.

Spithill said Dalton's attitude wasn't universally shared within Team NZ.

"They've always been invited basically to every meeting to discuss the future of the event, so I think Grant Dalton has shown he is a lone wolf," Spithill said.

"I think he's created that. I've spoken to some of the New Zealand sailors and they have a different opinion, but they can't say anything."

Spithill also hit back at criticism of Team USA's tactic of working closely with Team Japan on design and innovation.

It was another chance to fire a shot at the Kiwis.

"It's been a great relationship. Team New Zealand really started this all with the last campaign with (Italian syndicate) Luna Rossa - to be honest I don't think they did a great job of it," he said.

"This time you look at the relationship between Japan and ourselves, it has been really good. You know, a lot of learning, a lot of development."

Rookie New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling, attending his first America's Cup, wasn't goaded into responding to Spithill's comments.

He says such banter has been a fixture at previous regattas and he plans for Team NZ to do their talking on the water.

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