Nuclear war in New Zealand?

Le Defi, France's AC challenge will face a tough time when they reach Auckland

Sunday January 13th 2002, Author: John Greenland/James Boyd, Location: Australasia

The French America's Cup syndicate, Le Défi, yesterday announced nuclear energy and electronics company AREVA Group has come on board as their main sponsor for the America's Cup 2003.

AREVA are set to invest some 15 million Euros between now and the Cup in 2003. The sponsorship come at a good time for the team, who only announced the opening of their French base on 30 December last year but now have 69 people currently working at Le Défi's operational base in Lorient, France, with this number expected to grow to 82. The sponsorship bring Le Défi's war fund up to approximately 24 million Euros.
"The America's Cup is an international competition that demands technological performance as well as the capacity to unite individual skills to achieve a single goal. AREVA fully identifies with these values" says Jacques-Emmanuel Saulnier, Senior Vice President, Communications, and spokesman for AREVA. "It's a great moment for Le Défi. The association with AREVA is essential. AREVA gives Le Défi the means to see concrete results from four years of work, including the very intense last 18 months, when we carried on from our participation in the 2000 America's Cup season," says Xavier de Lesquen, executive director of the DEFI AREVA team.

However the sponsorship is certain to spark controversy in New Zealand, which has had a long standing run-in with France over its program of nuclear testing in the Pacific. Following more than a decade of run-ins between Greenpeace and the French military in the Pacific, friction came to a head in 1985 with the bombing in Auckland of the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior which was about to lead a peaceful flotilla of ships from New Zealand to the French Polynesian atoll of Moruroa, where the French government were carrying out nuclear tests. The bombing, carried out by French agents, resulted in the death of Greenpeace photographer Fernando Pereira.

There is every possibility that come their move to Auckland, following the launch of their new boat in early May, the French team will come under siege by local protesters.

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