Sailing: America's Cup design secrets 'offered for sale' at $1m

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The Independent Online

A price tag of $1m was put on revealing design secrets of one America's Cup syndicate to another, according to an affidavit sworn by Great Britain's challenge general manager, David Barnes.

Barnes, a New Zealander, claims that a disgruntled former employee of Craig McCaw's $60m (£41m) Seattle-based outfit One World offered not only design drawings of the boats being designed by the former Team New Zealand designer Laurie Davidson, but all the four previous TNZ boats which won the Cup in 1995 and defended it in 2000.

Barnes says that Sean Reeves, a New Zealand lawyer who had worked for many years with TNZ ­ as had Barnes ­ but then recruited many Kiwis to McCaw's team, called him on 21 June at the GBR Challenge offices in Cowes. He says he immediately told Reeves that what he was doing was illegal as well as morally and ethically wrong. Reeves had left McCaw's before the alleged phone call.

But it was not until 31 October that he made a deposition to lawyers in Cowes, helped by Julia Harrison, the syndicate's lawyer and daughter of its financier, Peter Harrison. This was sent to One World's lawyers, Davis, Rice, Tremaine in Seattle. They have brought a major law suit against Reeves.

A similar offer had been reported by Larry Ellison's San Francisco-based Oracle Racing syndicate, but Reeves had dismissed a telephone call to another ex-TNZ Kiwi, Chris Dickson, as being restricted to family gossip. Oracle, too, has been co-operating with One World's lawyers.

There are 10 challenger syndicates entered for the Louis Vuitton Cup elimination series which begins on 1 October in Auckland next year to find the sole challenger to New New Zealand in February 2003.

Another former TNZ man in a different kind of trouble is Kevin Shoebridge. The skipper of Tyco had to turn his bows back to South Africa as his yacht developed major structural failure of the carbon-fibre rudder stock at the end of the third day of the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race from Cape Town to Sydney.

Shoebridge estimated it could take three or four days to nurse the boat back to Port Elizabeth using an emergency rudder. The boat may not re-start as it could not expect to be anything other than last, scoring one point ­ as it would for not finishing.

They may be glad to avoid some tough conditions in the Southern Ocean. Still romping along in front is Neal McDonald, who replaced Roy Heiner as skipper of Assa Abloy. But Grant Dalton, lying fourth on Amer Sports One, said yesterday: "It would be impossible for the boat to be any wetter. This is not your average heavy-weather spray, more walls of white water which eventually penetrate through everything."

Working hard in more benign conditions is Ellen MacArthur, who led the 60ft trimarans round Ascension Island last night on the way from Le Havre to Bahia Salvador in the two-handed Transat Jaques Vabre.

Back up to second place in the Open 60s were Mike Golding and Marcus Hutchinson, though still 75 miles behind the leaders Roland Jourdain and Gael Le Cleac'h, and just ahead of Mark Turner and Nick Moloney. Relinquishing the lead in the Open 50s were Alex Bennett and Paul Larsen as Renaud Le Youdec and Jean Bacave took an eight-mile lead.

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