One of the leading challengers hoping to take the America's Cup from New Zealand has pulled out of the 1999-2000 contest, claiming "extortion" by Auckland authorities for port facilities. The Australian team, led by Iain Murray, the former world champion, has cancelled its launching. So far, 11 yacht syndicates have signed up for the challenge.
Olivier de Kersauson, the French skipper, is set to break, by a considerable margin, the record of 74 days 22hr 17min 22sec set by Sir Peter Blake and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in the 92-foot catamaran Enza on 1 April 1994. In his fourth attempt to win the Jules Verne Trophy, De Kersauson crossed the Equator on his way back up the Atlantic to the finish at Brest at 06.16 GMT yesterday. His 92-foot trimaran Sport-Elec needs to average just 10 knots, 240 miles a day, for the remainder of the journey to break the record after averaging 362 miles a day for the journey so far. Good winds are forecast and he has until 21 May.