French master plan sunk :SAILING

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The French have had their secret weapon torpedoed, the Japanese have had one of their star players permanently eclipsed, and Bill Koch's philosophy about empowering women in the America's Cup is under radical review.

The international jury was kept busy over the weekend as an already tottering French challenge suffered another setback because a secret design idea was ruled illegal by the scrutineers. The FranceAmerica team appealed to the jury - unsuccessfully. They would not say what was not allowed, all the papers except one set (now locked in a safe) have been shredded, and the French have not revealed what it was they wanted to do to their new boat. But if, as they do, they want to race it from Sunday it will have to be modified by Wednesday, when it is due to be measured.

Also upset have been the Japanese, who wanted their coach, Peter Gilmour, to sail as a member of the crew. But the rules require a two-year residency qualification and Gilmour, an Australian, has failed to persuade either the Challenger organisation or the Defence organisation that he qualifies.

The jury appeal has now also failed and he can only sit aboard as an observer during the races, forbidden to speak or signal anything that could help the crew and its helmsman, Kiwi John Cutler.

For Bill Koch, who successfully defended on behalf of the United States in 1992, the plan to train non-sailors to handle the powerful and quirky yachts and to rotate the key jobs of helmsman, tactician and navigator are under urgent review after losing five of their first six races.

AMERICA'S CUP (San Diego): Louis Vuitton Cup (Challenger series) first round: Tag Heuer (C Dickson) bt Rioja de Espana (P Campos) by 7min 3sec; OneAustralia (J Bertrand) bt France 2 (M Pajot) by 1:24; Nippon (M Namba) bt Sydney 95 (S Fischer) by 4:9. Standings: 1 Team New Zealand 5pts; 2 Tag Heuer Challenge 4; 3 Nippon 4; 4 OneAustralia 3; 5 Sydney 95 2; 6 Rioja de Espana 0; 7 France 2 0

Citizen Cup (Defender series): first round: Stars & Stripes (D Conner) bt America3 (L Egnot) by 1:51. Standings: 1 Young America 5; 2 Stars & Stripes 2; 3 America3 1

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