Sailing: Protester damages America's Cup

Saturday 15 March 1997 00:02
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The America's Cup, the oldest trophy in international sport and the most coveted prize in sailing, was badly damaged yesterday in a political protest by a 27-year-old Maori man in Auckland, New Zealand.

The 3ft high silver cup was said to be "virtually destroyed" and would have to be rebuilt following the attack at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

The attacker, dressed in a suit, shirt and tie, had asked to see the trophy, which is displayed in a showcase. There was no security guard in the room as he suddenly pulled a short-handled sledgehammer out of a bag slung over his shoulder and attacked the trophy case.

The man repeatedly smashed at the armoured glass casing until it broke open. He tried but failed to remove the trophy from the broken cabinet and then tore off his jacket and shirt to reveal a T-shirt emblazoned with Maori sovereignty slogans.

Nearby building workers grabbed the man, who was arrested and was due to appear in court today to face criminal damage charges. Police did not release his name but said he was a local student. A Maori separatist group that wants an independent Maori state claimed responsibility for the attack.

The trophy will be sent for repairs to England to the manufacturer, Garrards, which apparently still has the original drawings of the trophy, which was made in about 1850.

The New York Yacht Club held the cup for 132 years until 1983, when Alan Bond won it for Australia. Team New Zealand became only the second foreign crew in 144 years to take the America's Cup away from the United States when they won the trophy two years ago. Auckland, which boasts it has more yachts per capita than any city in the world, will host the next America's Cup in 1999.

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