INEOS Team UK can't be written off, says TNZ chief exec

FILE PHOTO: Emirates Team New Zealand's Managing Director Grant Dalton speaks to journalists during the America's Cup World Series regatta in Naples April 11, 2012. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

(Reuters) - INEOS Team UK were well off the pace in the December regatta but it would be a mistake to write them off ahead of the challenger series to decide who meets Team New Zealand for the America's Cup, TNZ chief executive Grant Dalton has said.

The British team's challenge suffered a major setback last month with 'Britannia' losing each of their World Series races, while TNZ dominated.

"You just can't write them off - it wouldn't be fair, it wouldn't be right and with the talent behind that organisation, you write them off at your peril," Dalton told The Times, highlighting the influence of skipper Ben Ainslie.

"The one thing you can never dismiss or ignore is the fact that Ben is the most decorated Olympic yachtsman in history.

"That comes with fun tickets -- the guy is really good. So I just never, ever dismiss him. The guy is determined as hell."

Dalton said Ainslie was coping well with the disappointment of his team losing all their warm-up races.

"I think he's handling it really well," Dalton said. "I didn't know they are saying it's a siege mentality in their team but that doesn't surprise me because my philosophy with this campaign is the same."

The challenger series -- which involves the British team as well as Italy's Luna Rossa and American Magic -- runs from Jan. 15-Feb. 22.

The winner will then face defenders TNZ from March 6.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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