TNZ’s on-again, off-again sponsorship deal with German software giant SAP has been completed, meaning business rivals Hasso Plattner (SAP) and Larry Ellison (Oracle) will continue their boardroom battle on the water

The German e-business solutions company SAP AG has taken the place of TVNZ in the ‘family of five’ sponsors that have brought laurels to the last two All Black America’s Cup campaigns. The deal was leaked last week but SAP chairman Plattner, caught in the media spotlight, distanced himself from major sponsorship and touted a minor roll instead.

Saturday’s announcement confirms that SAP AG, the world’s third largest software company (after Microsoft and Oracle? where are you, Bill?) has signed a multimillion-dollar deal that gives them equal billing with Lotto, Steinlager, Toyota and Telecom on the boat’s hull and sails.

It’s a shrewd move by Plattner, now guaranteed a spot in the final. Larry Ellison’s Oracle will have to battle its way through what looks set to become the toughest challenger series ever if he is to set foot on sailing’s biggest stage.

Both men own top flight maxis. Plattner’s Morning Glory and Ellison’s Sayonara have raced against each other several times and Ellison has certainly gained the upper hand in those clashes. Should they meet again before the Cup, the outcome will provide rich fodder for speculation – neither man is any great friend of failure.

The Alinghi syndicate, backed by Swiss pharmaceutical billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli, has also announced some heavyweight financial backing. UBS AG, the Swiss bank, has swung its weight in behind Alinghi and hopes to be as successful under Coutts’ leadership as they were under Pierre Fehlmann’s when UBS Switzerland won the 1985-86 Whitbread Race on elapsed time.