America's Cup - defenders hit back at Coutts' accusations

Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron 'bemused' by Swiss Challenger's objections

Monday November 6th 2000, Author: Andy Rice, Location: United Kingdom
The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) has hit back at complaints by Russell Coutts that it is deliberately trying to thwart his Swiss America’s Cup challenge. Coutts said that the Squadron had already banked their $150,000 entry fee, despite delaying a decision over whether the Swiss Challenge would be eligible for the competition.
But the RNZYS's vice commodore Bill Endean admits to being bemused by the accusations, claiming the cheque has not even been banked. Endean, an Auckland lawyer by trade, said the delayed decision over the fate of the Swiss was because of the due diligence being carried out in relation to their challenge. The problem for the Swiss is that they are making their challenge from Lake Geneva, not connected to the sea. The Deed of Gift for the America’s Cup states that a challenging yacht club must hold an annual regatta on the sea, or arm of the sea.

Clearly this is not a new issue, as the Swiss challenged unsuccessfully at the America’s Cup just passed. But Endean has pointed out that the regatta, which the Swiss club organised at Cannes on the Mediterranean earlier this year, was only put together after they had lodged their challenge. It is this grey area that the lawyers must resolve before the Swiss learn the fate of their syndicate.

Meanwhile, it's entertaining for the rest of us to watch Coutts and co squirming while the RNZYS play hardball - Coutts reckoned their design work was being held up by the pending decision. But not as much as the Challengers for the last Cup were held up by the inability of the Kiwis to put in place a television deal, until just months before the event started - making it much, much harder for the Challengers to get sponsors. As the old saying goes, if you live by the sword, you die by the sword. Or maybe the Deed of Gift needs tearing up and rewriting.

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