America's Cup 2003

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Monday, February 17
 
Team New Zealand needs to make a change

By Gary Jobson
Special to ESPN.com

AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- I have to get it off my chest. Team New Zealand has the boat speed to win this regatta. On both upwind and downwind legs of the course, the defender was able to make up time on the challenger, Alinghi, in Race 3. The difference in this America's Cup is the extraordinary skill of Russell Coutts and his veteran team.

Alinghi
Alinghi has been able to outmaneuver Team New Zealand, which might have the faster boat.

There was considerable hope that TNZ would be able to turn this regatta around in Race 3. Everyone on the waterfront in Auckland has learned that three times in America's Cup history, boats have been down 0-2 and come back to win (Resolute 1920, Rainbow 1934 and Australia II 1983).

Now, TNZ must defeat Coutts and company in five of the next six races. This is even more daunting when you realize that Coutts has now won 12 consecutive Cup races. In fact, he has never lost one!

So what can Team New Zealand do at this point? Wednesday is a day off. This is an opportunity to regroup before Race 4 (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET, Wednesday). We have been able to observe in the first three races that NZL82 has the speed to win in light, medium and heavy breezes. So it really comes down to the crew.

One thought would be to rotate veteran Tom Schnackenberg on board. But "Schnack" is quick to point out that he did not write any of the software programs used in the performance analysis while racing. And Schnack, at 57, doesn't feel comfortable with the physical duties required. What TNZ needs is a winning start.

Clearly Coutts has Dean Barker's number. In all three starts, Coutts has won the favored end of the line and been in control. Listening to the onboard microphones tells us that tactician Hammish Pepper and strategist Peter Evans have been, at times, tentative. There is not the commanding voice onboard TNZ like we hear from Alinghi's tactician Brad Butterworth.

TNZ has Frenchman Bertrand Pace as a member of its team. Historically, he's done a good job racing against Coutts in the match racing circuit. Maybe Pace should be given the wheel at the start. This would be a radical move, but something has to change.

The TNZ crew demonstrates good focus during the race, but the dramatic dejection Paul Page and I see after each defeat shows a team that is overly concerned about the outcome of the regatta. Everyone likes a big turnaround in sports. In the current configuration, TNZ lacks the tactical skill to defeat Alinghi. A change could reverse this trend.

In 1977, Gary Jobson served as tactician to win the America's Cup for Ted Turner. ESPN's lead sailing analyst, Jobson will be providing ESPN.com with daily analysis throughout the America's Cup. E-mail him at garyjobson@cs.com or check out his Web site at jobsonsailing.com.




America's Cup coverage (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET, Wed.):
Will Team New Zealand recover from its disastrous start?



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