Sailing: Challengers seek Cup rule justice

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AN attempt to end an anomaly in the America's Cup rules that favours the defending syndicates will be made after the next meeting of the 1995 challengers in San Diego on 5 February.

At present, all the challengers have to nominate their hull at the beginning of the elimination trials, up to three months before the Cup match itself. The defender, which has only once come from outside the United States since the yacht, America, won the Cup off the Isle of Wight in 1851, can build new boats until the last minute.

Moves to give the challengers the same rights have not hitherto won total support, since it was felt this could also work against individual challenge syndicates. But the challengers want the deadline for nominating yachts to apply to both challengers and defenders, possibly by making the three- month cut-off a common one.

The challengers have notified the San Diego Yacht Club of their intent and Raul Gardini, the boss of the Italian syndicate, Il Moro di Venezia, which was sole challenger in 1992, has said he will withdraw his Europa Challenge for 1995 if the Americans do not agree. The SDYC has promised to respond early next month: though it is unlikely to agree straight away, it may put the issue to arbitration.

Under the present protocols, hammered out after the debacle of catamaran versus monohull in 1988, three trustees can deliberate on issues over which the challengers and defenders cannot agree by mutual consent.

The three are representatives of the New York Yacht Club, which drew up the original Deed of Gift rules governing the cup, the Royal Perth Yacht Club, the only ones to win, in 1983, against the Americans, and the San Diego Yacht Club, the present holders. A simple majority is binding on all parties.

The San Diego meeting is also expected to confirm Ernie Taylor, of Australia, in the post of executive director for the Challenger of Record Committee which represents all the current 14 syndicates. At present he holds the job on an interim basis.

Nuclear Electric, the leading yacht in the British Steel Challenge, has been taken out of the water in Hobart, Tasmania, in order to repair a vertical crack in her 12-tonne keel. The cause of the crack, which will be reinforced with steel plates, is believed to be a casting problem and not related to stresses caused by racing. 'The keel might be cracked, but it is no danger of falling off, Andrew Roberts, the project co-ordinator, said. The third leg to Cape Town starts on 13 February.