Coutts has to wait

Russell Coutts is still waiting to find out if his challenge for the America's Cup is legal, reports Ed Gorman

Thursday November 30th 2000, Author: Ed Gorman, Location: United Kingdom
The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) has responded to criticism by Russell Coutts of its failure to approve the Coutts-led Swiss Challenge for the 2003 America's Cup, by pointing out that it was the Swiss themselves who proposed the matter be dealt with by an arbitration panel.

Coutts and his team have been waiting for weeks for the go-ahead from the RNZYS amid rumours that the hold-up is part of a vendetta against the Kiwi skipper who won the America's Cup for New Zealand, successfully defended it and then took an estimated $5 million to skipper the challenge financed by Ernesto Bertarelli.

However Peter Taylor, commodore of the RNZYS told the New Zealand Herald that there was no such campaign and added that if Coutts checked with his lawyers, he would discover that it was his own people who suggested the dispute be settled by an America's Cup arbitration panel.

"It's not (a personal thing)," Taylor said. "We're not in the least bit interested, from the Squadron's point of view, in pursuing that sort of issue. It's been amicable all the way through," he added.

The dispute centres on the requirement in the America's Cup Deed of Gift that all challenger clubs hold annual regattas on an arm of the sea. Bertarelli's challenge has been issued by the Societe Nautique de Geneve Yacht Club based on the freshwater Lake Geneva. The club held its first sea regatta only this year off the coast of France and only after it had submitted its entry to the RNZYS.

In the meantime Bertarelli's entry fee of $375,000 has not been banked in Auckland by the Squadron and Coutts is fretting and concerned that he cannot make progress on nationality and design issues which are vital to the success of his campaign at this stage. "I know that we've come under more grief than any other Swiss team and who knows why," commented Coutts.

The arbitration panel is in no rush to complete its work. It has set as its deadline for all submissions from interested parties, including one each from the RNZYS and the Swiss, Monday December 4th, and only then will it consider its decision through a series of meetings by conference call.

The panel, which includes Sir David Tompkins, a retired High Court judge in New Zealand, is made up of two members appointed by the Squadron, two by Prada - the challenger of record - and a fifth member from Spain.

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