Le Defi Areva, French America's Cup challenge, cranked up their presence in Auckland today with the arrival - finally - of their two ACC yachts that were unloaded at Jellicoe wharf having been shipped from France.
"We are delighted to be back in Auckland for another crack at the America's Cup," commented Le Defi Areva's General Manager, Xavier de Lesquen.
"For the last three years, we have been building up to this event in Lorient, France - honing our designs, our skills and our mental toughness in preparation for the Louis Vuitton Cup 2003. 30,000 hours of research and development means that we will be racing the new French boat FRA-69 against the other Challengers in the series. We can't wait," he said.
The French Challenger team has been refining their plan of attack for 2003 ever since the final of the last America's Cup. Even as the outcome of the final race between Prada and Team New Zealand was being decided, the YAKA design team were plotting together nearby. Since 2000, the team has come up with the FRA-69 and have created a new training boat FRA-79 with an identical hull but using the gear from their old boat.
The French have a bigger team this time around, bolstered by professional French sailors as well as others from around the world, including New Zealand. The commercial structure of the team and management is unchanged from the 2000 series. Their budget is comparatively small budget at $NZ50 million.
"We are one of the smallest Challengers in this series yet we are very determined. Like Team New Zealand, we are from a passionate nation of sailors. For the last year, we have had the privilege of training on Black Magic and we are hoping that some of that kiwi ingenuity has rubbed off on us. Sailing Black Magic certainly taught us a lot about why New Zealand has retained the America's Cup in the last two series!
"This time, we are aiming to finish with a top four placing. It is the necessary step to go further next time. In the meantime, we are just happy to be in Auckland sailing," continued Monsieur de Lesquen.
Xavier de Lesquen added that the team felt privileged to be personally welcomed by Greenpeace New Zealand.