France beset by taxing problems : SAILING

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The Independent Online
The troubles within the French challenge for the America's Cup deepened on the water yesterday as the France America skipper, Marc Pajot, went down to his fourth consecutive defeat, this time at the hands of a far from up-to-speed Chris Dickson in Tag Heuer.

Ashore, the management, particularly syndicate president Francois Giraudet, is under pressure from their major sponsor, Stardust, and its chief executive Jean-Michel Tissier, to deliver results. The problem is that Stardust holds the purse strings of a further F15m (£1.8m).

This is because of a tax scheme, approved by the French government, where investment in French colonies, in this case in the Caribbean, can be set against tax in France, the home of Stardust's holding company, the Credit Lyonnais bank.

So the French are 4-0 down, and are likely to go 5-0 down when they meet John Bertrand's OneAustralia today, though they should beat Spain in their last race of the first Louis Vuitton Cup round robin. Their hopes now rest on the new yacht, which will bebrought into play for the second round robin, which begins 29 January.

All of which overshadowed a well-executed win for Team New Zealand, Russell Coutts going 5-0 up in his series by beating John Cutler in Nippon Challenge, while Bertrand comfortably beat the Spanish.

Also unbeaten and 5-0 are the Young Americans on Pact '95, beating Bill Koch's all-woman crew of America3. The Cuben class of '95 must wait until next month for their new boat and with it the hope of new impetus for their campaign.

A protest filed by Stars & Stripes against Young America was dropped. The observer aboard Young America mistakenly took photographs of Stars & Stripes in the race. "It's not going to win or lose the America's Cup - we just settled it on the phone," Cayard said.

AMERICA'S CUP TRIALS (San Diego) Louis Vuitton Cup (Challenger elimination series) first round: Nippon (M Namba) bt Rioja de Espana (P Campos) by 4min 3sec; Tag Heuer Challenge (C Dickson) bt Sydney '95 (S Fischer) by 1min 24sec; Tag Heuer bt FranceAmerica by 1min 32sec; One Australia bt Rioja de Espana by 1min 25sec; Team New Zealand bt Nippon by 2min 1sec Standings: 1 Team New Zealand (P Blake) (5 wins, 0 defeats); 2 Tag Heuer Challenge (4-0); 3 Nippon 3-1; 4 One Australia (2-2); 5 Sydney '

95 (2-2); 6 FranceAmerica (0-4); 7 Rioja de Espana (0-4); 7 France 2 0. Citizen Cup (Defender elimination series) first round (victory worth one point): Young America (K Mahaney) bt Stars & Stripes (D Conner) by 5min. Standings: 1 Young America (4-0); 2

Stars & Stripes (1-3); 3 America3 (1-3).