Sailing: Dutch anger over French mast

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The Independent Online
URGENT TALKS were taking place here last night to avert a major row which could lead to the French team being thrown out or walking out of the Champagne Mumm Admiral's Cup.

The dispute centred on the legality of a radical design of mast fitted to the 50-footer in the three-boat team. The red rocket ship named Krazy K-Yote 2 has a wing mast without the conventional spreader support systems for the rigging.

It set rivals complaining that this was not allowed under the construction rules, partly because it is made of a mixture of carbon fibre and Kevlar, partly because it can twist aerodynamically to present a better angle to the wind. The Dutch led the protest, with the help of a key American member of their team, Dee Smith, and a letter was sent to the organising Royal Ocean Racing Club, which was signed by five other teams but not Britain.

At the same time, the Offshore Racing Council's Nicola Sironi, who heads up the IMS handicap system under which the boats race, demanded yesterday that a measurement certificate issued by the RORC on Saturday be withdrawn. The ORC and RORC are at loggerheads because both wanted to promote and run their own rival world-wide measurements systems.

The RORC is desperately anxious to see the maximum number of teams in its event, and the elimination of the French team - back for the first time since they won the cup in 1993 - would reduce the field to eight and would not help the RORC's delicate relationship with their French sponsor, Champagne Mumm. If K-Yote goes, the other two French boats would go with them.

The yacht's Austrian owner, Ortwin Kandler, was threatening legal action and many of the competitors would be embarrassed if a major rival were to be thrown out at such a late stage. Its designer, the Argentinian Juan Kouyoumdjian, who took his degree at Southampton, was trying to organise a compromise handicap rating in time for the opening two races in the Solent tomorrow.

Smith was adamant the boat had an unfair advantage, but the British team coach, Bill Edgerton, said: "If the boat is OK and they win every race we'll be the first to congratulate them. Good on them. If we had thought of it, we would have done it."