SAILING: Coffin can sound death knell for Young America

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The Independent Online
THE MIGHTY New York Yacht Club faces elimination from the Louis Vuitton Cup and, therefore, the America's Cup today, but not because of losing in a race. The executioner's axe is in the hands of Chris Coffin, the chief executive of the San Francisco-based America True syndicate, but he wanted to keep his eastern rivals waiting to hear their fate until today.

America True is due to race the French syndicate today and defeat for Bertrand Pace and Le Defi would have meant a showdown tomorrow with New York's Ed Baird in Young America for the remaining sixth spot in the semi- finals.

But there was every indication that True would not even bother to turn up and so hand the extra points to the French, making sure of their entry into the next round and ensuring NYYC's elimination.

Skipper John Cutler was visibly squirming when asked what was being planned after yesterday's race, saying that if it was light and pleasant today they might go for a sail. But he never said they would race and added that, if it was heavy weather, the priority was to prepare for the semi-finals. But Coffin, making his first such public appearance, said ominously: "We have accomplished what we need to do for this round. So we would rather not risk the boat if it is howling tomorrow."

If there was little Christmas cheer in the panelled rooms on West 44th Street, New York, last night, they also knew that they had only themselves to blame. The pride of the NYYC, their Bruce Farr-designed yacht, took another hammering on the far away Hauraki Gulf at the hands of America True.

That meant they had lost five out of eight starts in the high-scoring third round robin, and one of those three victories was a walkover against the crippled Swiss.

Young America's tactician, Jim Brady, said he would like to see America True race so that things would come down to the final race between them and the French. "We have sent a few cases of our sponsor's beer, Sam Adams, to the America True compound," he said. "We have kind of got our fingers crossed and hope it'll play out that way." But he later said he was not surprised at the move to shut them out.

The move would mean that there was no point in anyone completing the final race of the third round robin as the other five places are settled.