Coutts fails to toe line line : SAILING

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The Independent Online
The first defeat for the Russell Coutts-skippered Team New Zealand came not in their Louis Vuitton Cup race against John Bertrand's oneAustralia on the water, but at the hands of an international jury.

Bertrand, who went overboard but was rapidly recovered during the race, protested that the Kiwi practice of putting their tactician, Murray Jones, as far as possible up the mast to look for wind patterns, clumps of seaweed, even whales, was against the rules. The relevant section has to do with having part of the body outside vertical lines drawn up from the side of the hull.

When the yacht heels, much of the mast is outside the vertical line and the only reason for being there then is to do a specific task. The jury added the explanation that such a specific task should be one "that could not reasonably be carried out from within the vertical [lines]".

What the Kiwis were doing, the jury said, was illegal. They were disqualified and the win overturned. But the matter may yet not be settled. The rule could still be tested on sending a man up the mast temporarily, or sending him only part way to stay within the vertical lines.

Also testing the jury is the continuing complaint by TNZ that Nippon Challenge has broken the rule restricting every syndicate to two new boats. Such were the alterations to the first of the two new Japanese yachts, it constituted a new boat, the New Zealanders said.

The jury will first try to establish where the line should be drawn. It must then, if there is a case, see whether the Japanese have crossed it. Even then they would have to decide in what order the hulls, new, second-hand new, and modified new, were "delivered". The first two would be legal, the third could not be used.

All of which overshadowed the first conclusive win for Marc Pajot's new boat, France 3, over John Cutler, steering Nippon Challenge.

AMERICA'S CUP (San Diego): Citizen Cup (for Defenders): Postponed: Young America v Stars & Stripes. Standings: 1 Stars & Stripes 7pts; 2 Young America 5; 3 America3 3.

LOUIS VUITTON CUP (for Challengers): NZL-39 (C Dickson) bt Sydney 95 (N Wittey)12min 24sec; oneAustralia (J Bertrand) bt Team New Zealand (R Coutts) disq; France 3 (M Pajot) bt Nippon (M Namba) 2:24. Standings: 1 Team New Zealand 10pts; 2 oneAustralia 9;3 NZL-39 7; 4 Nippon 6; 5 Sydney 95 4; 6 France 3 3; 7 Spain 0.

n In the Miami Olympic classes regatta, Britain's 18-year-old Ben Ainslie is third overall after three races in the Laser class. John Merricks and Ian Walker hold the same position in the 470s, with Andy Tichards and Ian Park fourth, and fifth in the Tornado catamaran are John Pierce and Stephen Park.