Cup rules give way to expedience

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The Independent Online


reports from San Diego

They stopped the count at nine in what was supposed to be a knock-out contest to find the US defender for the America's Cup yesterday.

In a move which undermines the sport, but is in keeping with a tradition of bending the rules, the defence organisers cooked up a deal to keep all three of their contenders in the event.

For months the format of the competition has been laid down and for days the crunch match yesterday between the grand old man of the event, Dennis Conner, and Bill Koch's crew of 15 women and a man, had been building up. That should have decided who joined Kevin Mahaney's Pact '95 in a best of 11 final starting on Monday.

But off-water wrangles have heightened public awareness in a less than beneficial way, so the defence organisers, AC'95, moved the goalposts, saying it was "for the betterment of the sport," leaving even their own countrymen with gaping jaws. Koch and Conner still went out to race yesterday with the winner carrying forward one point, the loser none. Pact '95 have been placated with two points to carry forward to another round-robin stage, the word being that Mahaney was told if he did not agree and Conner won yesterday, Koch would give Conner his probably faster, latest boat, Mighty Mary.

So five yachts go into the finals - two into the Louis Vuitton Cup for the challengers, Team New Zealand and oneAustralia - and three into the bizarrely organised Citizen Cup for defenders.