French skipper Bertrand Pace, currently the #1 ranked match racer in the world, has been signed to sail for Team New Zealand (TNZ) in the 2003 America's Cup. Pace helmed the French challenge in the last America's Cup. Pace and his family will move to Auckland in January to establish New Zealand residency, as required by the America's Cup Protocol.

Pace was signed by Dean Barker, currently ranked #2 in the world, the head skipper for TNZ. Barker went to Paris to convince Pace to sign on as a skipper, after TNZ reportedly had spoken to him about a coaching position.

The official release from TNZ:

Bertrand Pace — currently ranked No.1 in world match racing — is to join Team New Zealand as it prepares to defend the America's Cup in 2003.

The 39-year-old former World Match Racing Champion has been contracted as a helmsman and will become a New Zealand resident.

"Pace will be an experienced sparring partner for our skipper Dean Barker and adds real depth to the team," said Team New Zealand Chief Executive Ross Blackman.

The signing was confirmed by Barker today when he arrived back in Auckland after competing against Pace in a catamaran regatta in southern France last weekend.

The talented Frenchman joins Barker and Cameron Appleton as part of an innovative strategy for defending the America's Cup. With three helmsmen now available, Barker says the team can be better prepared than it was last time.

"Our in-house racing is the most important part of Team New Zealand's preparation and with Bertrand signed on I am looking forward to the toughest challenge we can set ourselves. Bertrand and Cameron need to be pushing me harder than any other skipper in the world," said Barker.

While acknowledging the fast developing talent of Cameron Appleton, Barker said the younger helmsman and himself could both benefit from Pace's vast experience. This year Barker and Pace have dominated world match racing.

Barker won the World Match Racing Championship in Croatia in May. Pace won the same coveted title back in 1994. The new team mates currently share the number one and two spots in both the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) World Match Race Rankings and the Swedish Match Grand Prix Sailing Tour.

Of the seven regattas held to date in the international match racing series, Barker and Pace between them have won four events. Pace has contested all seven regattas taking two wins, two seconds, two fourths and an eighth. In the four events he has contested Barker has taken two wins, a second and a third.

Going into the finale in Bermuda in late October, Pace holds a narrow points lead over Barker who was absent from the most recent round in Denmark where his series points for the New Zealand team were boosted by Cameron Appleton taking a fine fifth placing.
Pace has already announced he will not contest the Bermuda finale; leaving Barker with the task of finishing second or better to win the overall series title.

Although not part of the World Tour, the former rivals also competed against each other in this year's Congressional Cup match racing in Long Beach. Barker won, Pace was third.

"I've sailed against Bertrand a lot in the last couple of years and he is obviously right at the top of his game. He's got lots of experience and knows what it takes to win," said the New Zealand skipper.

"We need to achieve the best possible racing during the lead up to the Cup and Bertrand is going to make a significant difference. His experience coupled with Cameron's youthful ambition will push me much harder.

"It's similar to the situation when Ed Baird was brought in to tune up Team New Zealand in San Diego in 1995; except that Bertrand's role is not just as a coach. He is part of our sailing team.

"But any decisions on crew selection are much further down the road. Right now we are taking one step at a time and we are very pleased that Bertrand is joining Team New Zealand.

Bertrand, who is a qualified industrial engineer, is currently based at Sete on the Mediterranean coast of France but he will soon move to Auckland with his wife Christine and their sons, 6-year-old Victor and one-year-old Ludovic.

His career record is impressive. Back in 1984 he was the Quarter Ton World Champion and he has contested four Admiral's Cup regattas; winning in 1991.

After claiming the World Match Racing title at La Rochelle in France in 1994 he went on to be runner up in Japan in 1998 and Denmark in 1999.

Last year he also won the One Ton Cup at the Corel 45 World Championships.
Bertrand has taken nine victories on the World Match racing circuit and has won the gruelling Tour de France a la Voile six times.

He has competed in four America's Cups, beginning as navigator for countryman Marc Pajot in Fremantle in 1987. He was navigator and back up helmsman for the French in 1992 and was promoted to tactician and starting helmsman for Pajot in 1995.

At America's Cup 2000 Pace was skipper and helmsman for the French 6 eme Sens syndicate. The orange and blue French yacht ended the first Round Robin 2-8 down but improved dramatically with seven straight wins and a place in the Louis Vuitton Cup semi-final.