Kiwis still waiting after 10 years of Cup agony

NEIL REID
Last updated 20:13 21/09/2013
Nathan Handley
NATHAN HANDLEY: "We thought it [the series] was game over, we thought Team New Zealand were going to win.''
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Nathan Handley thought his decade-long wait for the America's Cup to return to New Zealand shores was over this morning.

A member of the Team New Zealand crew which lost the Auld Mug to Alinghi in 2003, he is currently in Marseille, France, where he is coaching New Zealand crews taking part in the 2013 49er World Championships.

Handley - a bowman for the crew which was beset with gear failure on in 2003 - and other members of the New Zealand 49er contingent watched the initial stages of the opening race in San Francisco Harbour via the internet.

But with Emirates Team Zealand holding a commanding lead in light winds, their internet connection crashed.

They headed to another house where they were sure they would be able to wild scenes of celebrations from San Francisco, only to find the race had been aborted after Team New Zealand failed to cross the finish line in the agreed 40-minute race limit.

''I was obviously pretty gutted,'' Handley said from France.

''The internet crashed on us ... we thought it [the series] was game over, we thought Team New Zealand were going to win.''

Handley - himself also a former Olympic sailor - said time limits were nothing new in elite racing.

The Olympic classes, and past America's Cup events, had employed them.

''They are very unlucky,'' Handley said of his old syndicate.

''[But] I think it is fair enough. It is within all the other classes that we race. That is just yachting.''

The New Zealand 49er contingent stayed on to watch the second race, which was dominated by Oracle Team USA.

Team New Zealand was outsmarted by Oracle early in the race and from there Handley said ''it was pretty much game over''.

''Once again, that is just yachting and a tough day in the office,'' he said.

But Handley said it wasn't time to push the panic button, saying he was confident Dean Barker would lead Team New Zealand to victory if not today, then early next week.

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''I reckon they will be fine ... at least one of those races is going to go their way,'' he said.

He said his best thoughts went out to veterans from the disappointing 2003 campaign who remain onboard New Zealand's latest quest to win the America's Cup.

''I guess looking at the boat ... it looks like 80 per cent or 90 per cent of the guys are from that campaign,'' he said.

''I guess for them, they have been around the game for a long time now, and you would like to think this is their final hurdle. They have been together for a long time and you would like to think this would be their one to win.''

Handley said he had moved on from his own disappointment following 2003, saying ''it is long gone now''.

''I am tied up with Yachting New Zealand and the Olympic classes now,'' he said. ''That is my main focus, to try and win medals for the country at the Games.''

- Fairfax Media

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