Sailing: French walk out in protest at mast judgement

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The Independent Online
THE CHAMPAGNE Mumm Admiral's Cup lost one its main contenders yesterday when the French team pulled out with less than 24 hours to go.

Ortwin Kandler, the Austrian owner of the radical 50-footer Krazy K-Yote 2, was told that he must accept a higher handicap rating for his $2m (pounds 1.3m) boat, which features a wing mast and does away with conventional rigging. Kandler would not accept it and withdrew. This was followed by the two other French boats pulling out "in solidarity".

The situation had been stirred up by rival teams which feared K-Yote would make their own $1m boats look slow and claimed that the new mast was illegal. The chief measurer of the Offshore Racing Council, Nicola Sironi, demanded that a measurement certificate drawn up by the organising Royal Ocean Racing Club be withdrawn. The international jury said he was within his rights to do so.

The connections of the boat were quick to condemn the decision. "I feel very sad because we have worked at this for two years and we have always promoted innovation," said Kandler's son Stephane. "But we have discovered today that one man can arbitrarily change the IMS handicap measurement rule because some people feel we are faster. But, in offering us another handicap they have proved the boat is legal. I have been involved in many major sports, but have never seen anything like this."

David Minords, the general manager of the RORC, concurred with the French. "This is an amazing blow," he said . "We are really very, very upset at this. We were pleased to have a French team with us so it is sad to see them withdraw."

The captain of the British team, Stephen Bailey, was also disappointed. "I am very sorry the French have dropped out. It seemed they have come up with a good idea and they deserve success for that," he said.

It will not, however, be the last we see of the new mast as its development, and the fact that it has not been declared illegal, will clearly have an effect on the America's Cup, which begins in October.

But the focus for now remains on the Admiral's Cup and without the French challenge the British team's chances are the best they have been for some years to recapture a trophy they have won nine times. Harry Cudmore, the team manager, rates them as second favourites to end the 10-year barren run and much will depend on how hungry they are, how much they can intimidate the opposition, and how consistent they can be over the series of eight races.

RACE SCHEDULE

Today: Two inshore races in Solent

Tomorrow: Two inshore races in Solent

Friday 16 July: Short offshore up to 44 hours

Monday 19 July: Two inshore races in Solent

Wednesday: Wolf Rock Race up to 500 miles

Inshore races: 1pt per place per class; Short offshore: 2.5 pts per place; Wolf Rock Race: 3.5pts per place. Lowest combined score of all three boats wins

THE RACE FOR THE ADMIRAL'S CUP

GREAT BRITAIN

A mixture of experience and home grown younger talent has made the home team second favourites to win for the first time since 1989. But late changes means that skippers Lawrie Smith, Chris Law and Adrian Stead will need to be on top form.

AUSTRALIA

Not expected to be as strong as usual. Rodney Pattisson joins Grant Simmer on the mid-size Sledgehammer and Gordon Maguire will be calling the shots on the Mumm 36.

COMMONWEALTH

Chernikeeff chief Peter Harrison liked the event so much he not only sponsored the British team but thought it might be fun to put his own team in under the Commonwealth flag. Favourites for the lanterne rouge.

EUROPE

Another contrived entry, in that this is very much an Italian initiative. The whole team is packed with international talent, including many itinerant top Kiwis. They will start as favourites.

GERMANY

May be stronger than they are being talked up and are dark horses. Hans- Otto Schumann has the non-related triple gold medallist Jochen Schumann helming his 50-footer.

ITALY

Three British guns join a strong team. Eddie Warden Owen is on the 50, Andrew Hurst, on the 40, and Phil Crebbin, whose Olympic credentials go back to 1976, is on the 36.

NETHERLANDS

More British attempts to beat their own countrymen as David Howlett switches colours to the new 50 skippered by Roy Heiner. The 40 has Whitbread veterans Andrew Cape and Erle Williams to add steel.

UNITED STATES

The defending champions have an impressive line-up on their big boat, including Dennis Conner's nominated helmsman for the next America's Cup, Kenny Read. They have the class 50, but the other two look like mid-pack boats, even with the addition of Conner's navigator, Peter Isler, to beef up the afterguard of the 40.

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