Sailing: OneWorld sails in legal limbo

The beleaguered OneWorld Challenge of Seattle prepared for today's first semi-final race in the Louis Vuitton Cup knowing their fate is still being considered ashore after two days of hearings in front of a panel of five high-tariff lawyers, with others of that ilk and silk brought in from the United States alongside those recruited locally.

The start of OneWorld's best-of-seven contest against one of their accusers, Prada of Italy, might come almost as a relief for a team that have admitted breaches of the rules governing the transfer of design information, and been penalised.

Much of the evidence submitted by Prada and Dennis Conner's Stars & Stripes, whom OneWorld beat in the quarter-final repêchage, merely raked over old ground.

The only new matter concerned a second copy of some technical information, which OneWorld admitted they should not possess and which had formed the basis of the team's previous punishment.

The adjudicating panel understands the urgency of the situation, but also refuses to be hurried in its deliberations. Three members will fly back to Europe and Australia today and may need further time after that to complete their deliberations by telephone conference call.

While the legal wrangles continued, in the other half of the draw the top-ranking Alinghi Challenge of Switzerland grappled with the problem of replacing the broken mast they suffered during testing on the eve of their encounter with the in-form Oracle BMW from San Francisco, which is shaping up to be a no-holds-barred tussle.

Alinghi have another $250,000 mast sitting on the rack and could transfer both the rigging and the boom.

But, although there were no injuries when the break occurred as they sailed downwind in over 20 knots of wind, this was the second major gear failure in two days of practice, unnerving the crew for the opening races, which are expected to be held in fresh winds.

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