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An America's Cup without Team NZ?

While the New Zealand press rips the Kiwi America's Cup challenge to pieces, apparently putting government and citizens against Team New Zealand, or least the idea of paying anymore towards the challenge. The British media has been swept along by Sir Ben's carefully orchestrated Challenge media presentation, complete with Royal of Choice, Kate, aka the Duchess of Cambridge . . . Only failing by a couple of days to include George's first public steps.

This continued with Sir Ben presenting his new America's Cup HQ plans to the residents of Portsmouth to general acclaim, as an air of "England expects" begins to grow around the challenge - Portsmouth is the home of Nelson's Victory.

Memories have been conveniently shortened to remove all thoughts of the previous aborted AC challenge, with many of the same crew at the helm.

Although unlikely, the removal of the Kiwis from the AC must be considered good news for the other challengers (although it will be strongly denied) as Team New Zealand would be odds on favourites to win through to face Oracle again.

Removal of Team NZ, opens up the seedings - imagine the French Tennis Open without Nadal - It's a whole new ball game.

Ben Ainslie + CupClick image for a larger image

Some of the players seem to have already noticed this and crew movements have been avoiding Team NZ, with Ben and Co picking up some tasty selections. Dirk Kramers, a top designer, has joined the British challenger, along with Jono Macbeth (NZL) as BAR's Sailing Team Manager. Italian Challenger, Luna Rossa, picked up another three regular AC crew.

Of course if you like conspiracy theories, than you will see Oracle's Mr Big, the billionaire chief executive Larry Ellison, all over this, sitting in California pushing the buttons: The blatantly one-sided Protocol, the high profile media attacks on Team NZ . . . all putting Team NZ on the defensive and leading the Kiwi media to question their participation.

So, will Team NZ fade away? Not if Boutros Boutros, Emirates' corporate marketing, divisional senior vice president, is to be believed. Emirates, Team NZ's naming rights sponsor for the past 10 years, just yesterday reiterated their support for the cash-strapped syndicate:

"We remain a strong believer in Emirates Team New Zealand, having been their title sponsor for over 10 years now. We are working closely with them with the objective of renewing our sponsorship as soon as the team is in a position to finalise arrangements regarding the next campaign."