Emirates Team New Zealand have issued a statement saying that they will not be competing in the 2014/15 Volvo Ocean Race, despite being linked to a Spanish sponsor.
The statement, issue late Friday afternoon in Auckland, reads: Emirates Team New Zealand announced today that it would not be competing in the next Volvo Ocean Race.
In recent weeks, the team had explored a joint challenge with Spanish interests. The Volvo Ocean race starts at Alicante, Spain, on October 4 this year.
Grant Dalton said the team was not convinced it could mount a successful challenge in the time available and the team’s energies would be better directed towards the next America’s Cup.
Dalton said the team had worked hard with excellent people representing the Spanish interests and with the Volvo Ocean Race management to get an entry to the start line.
'In the end, time was against us. Every passing day magnified the impact that preparations for a round-the-world race would have on Emirates Team New Zealand’s other operations.
'The team exists to win the America’s Cup. With the imminent announcement of the Protocol for the 35th America’s Cup, it’s time for us to withdraw reluctantly from any consideration of participation in the Volvo Ocean race.'
The move is a big blow for the race which is trying to enter a new phase, but so far has only attracted Northern Hemisphere entries, and has five boats announced. None of the top three teams from the 2011/12 race have entered the 2014/15 race to provide a benchmark between the events.
The race begins in October 2014, and is due to have a stopover in Auckland.
Despite the comment by the team that an America's Cup Protocol announcement is imminent, it is believed that is not the case, although the AC62 draft class rule has been circulated to the potential teams for comment ahead of the issuance of the Protocol, in which there are believed to be significant areas of alternative view between the Challenger of Record, Hamilton Island Yacht Club, and Oracle Team USA.
With the 34th America's Cup now long gone, Emirates Team NZ would appear to be cash short, and asset rich.
The team received a $5million injection of funds from NZ Government sources which is will see the team through to the end of June, after which they will be surviving on private funding and backing.
The team's Auckland base is a mass of high-technology sailing gear, for which there is no market - comprising two AC72s, and two AC72 wingsails and several sets of foils, plus an AC45.
Then there's a fleet of support boats which do have some value, but need to be replaced if the team commits to another America's Cup campaign. Then there is the spare parts for the same, plus the team has to move out of its Auckland base to make way for a new hotel.
Lying in Hamble, UK, is Camper, the team's Volvo 70 which placed second in the last Volvo Ocean Race. She is listed for sale by the team at around NZD1.5million.
Against that backdrop it is not hard to see why the team is reluctant to invest in more boats, even if the Volvo 65 is to be used for the next two Volvo Ocean Races. That pre-supposes that Emirates Team NZ would sail in the 2017/18 edition of the race given that the 35th America's Cup is also scheduled for 2017 - probably with a gap of one month between the end of the America's Cup and the start of the Volvo Ocean Race. Logistically that is a big split of focus.
Under the deal being discussed it was never clear who would own the boats. The partner deal was confirmed by both parties, with the Spanish group being led by Pedro Campos. His team had been sponsored by Spanish telco, Telefonica, who had been a Volvo Ocean Race backer for the previous three editions.
Other Spanish companies rumoured to be involved included Mapfre, a Madrid based insurance company that has been a long supporter of sailing but who started cutting back its sponsorships, including a long involvement in the ISAF Sailing World Cup event at Palma. A third player was tipped to be El Corte Ingles, Europe's largest department store chain.
For the current Volvo Ocean Race, a new concept of a one design boat, structurally very strongly engineered was conceived. That has worked for new teams in terms of no design component, equality of boat and shared support and parts. But for established teams such as Emirates Team NZ, with a lot of in-house capability the costs of competing has not dropped significantly, if at all. Having to purchase boats built between several yards in Europe is not as convenient or cost effective as having the boats built by Cooksons, sails by Norths and spars by Southern Spars - all within a few kilometres of the Team New Zealand base.
The only option for 2014/15 was to buy a boat built in Europe, have a work-up based in Europe and not see Auckland until halfway through the race. The only time that routine has been previously tried was when Grant Dalton skippered Amer Sports One to third place in the 2001-02 event, and the fleet stopped over in Sydney.
Currently there are five teams announced, being Turkish, Dutch, Emirati, Chinese and Swedish (Womens team) flagged entries. Organisers had provided for eight boats to be built - all underwritten by Volvo - however seven have actually been constructed. Five of those are taken by teams and are now sailing.
As the fleet currently stands, the 2014/15 race is expected to be a shoot-out between Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking - NED) and Abu Dhabi (Ian Walker - GBR).
There has been no official reaction from Volvo Ocean Race to the Emirates Team New Zealand announcement, which was issued late Friday afternoon (NZT) or in the early hours of Friday morning in Europe.