British World Series participation in doubt

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The Independent Online

Britain's participation in the Louis Vuitton World Series was still dangling in doubt today despite confident predictions by all the top managers that America's Cup challenger Team Origin would surely be included.

The series kicks off with a regatta in Nice from 7-22 November and will be followed by a repeat of the Pacific Series earlier this year in Auckland at the end of next February and into March.

There are eight signed up teams for the initial maximum 10 places on a tour which will continue through 2010 and will be cumulative in finding a world series champion, though its designation as a world series has still to be ratified by the International Sailing Federation.

The format from Auckland will be repeated, the 10 teams using two matched pair of America's Cup yachts. The first pair will be provided from Valencia by Vincenzo Onorato's Mascalzone Latino ream and talks are well advanced with the Spanish America's Cup syndicate Desafio Espanol for the second pair.

That would indicate that Desafio Espanol would take the ninth of the 10 slots. Britain's ream boss Sir Keith Mills was involved in the first discussions in Auckland and it is know that Team origin is keen to take part. There are still some details to tie up, but Stephen Barclay, also representing the San Francisco-based America's Cup challenger BMW Oracle said he expected everything to be tied up "in the next few days" and Louis Vuitton spokesman Bruno Trouble added that meant within a week.

Trouble said that he had held talks with both BMW Oracle and America's Cup holder Alinghi in Geneva and both had said they were content with the project. The series was protected for 2010 anyway as no-one could envisage a quick turnaround for the America's Cup after the projected head to head clash in Ras al-Khaimah in February. The teams taking part have to sign up for two years.

Representing Emirates Team New Zealand, Grant Dalton emphasised that the series, and its stakeholder members in the World Sailing Team Association, were not in competition with the America's Cup. "This is a stand-alone match racing series," he said, adding that the impetus had been a desire to run their own event without being controlled by others at a time when the America's Cup had excluded all other would-be challengers.