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Saturday, 18 May, 2002, 21:29 GMT 22:29 UK
Greenpeace boat rams French yacht
The Greenpeace speedboat near the dock
Greenpeace said the collision was an accident
A motor boat belonging to the environmentalist group Greenpeace has collided with the French yacht due to compete in next year's Americas Cup.

Greenpeace was protesting against one of the boat's sponsors, the Areva group, a world leader in the nuclear energy sector.

This is in every way similar to an act of terrorism

Le Defi Francais captain Pierre Mas
Saturday's collision damaged the yacht's carbon-fibre hull, forcing the cancellation of sea trials. Qualifying for the 2003 Americas Cup starts on 1 October.

"This is in every way similar to an act of terrorism," French team leader Pierre Mas said in remarks broadcast on French La Chaine Info TV.

"This is far removed from expressing one's views on nuclear power or on a particular sponsor. This is a physical attack on property, on a boat, a boat that's the fruit of the work of hundreds of people," he added.

According to the Reuters news agency, eyewitnesses said that the Greenpeace boat evaded a maritime patrol boat and bore down on the yacht.

The environmental group said it was an accident, caused when an inflatable dinghy belonging to the French team rammed the Greenpeace boat, sending it crashing into the yacht.

A team member inspects the damage
Fixing the dent will add 3-4 kg to the yacht's weight

"We only deal in pacifist and non-violent confrontation," Greenpeace's French chief Bruno Rebelle told Reuters.

Fifteen protesters also disrupted Friday evening's launch ceremony at a marina in Lorient, north-western France.

"I find these attacks indescribable," the local MP said.

"The nuclear debate is a democratic debate and must be resolved in a democratic fashion," Jean-Yves Le Driant was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Police arrested 11 people in connection with the collision, one of whom was still in custody on Saturday evening.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

12 Apr 02 | Sailing
America's Cup boat launched
17 May 02 | Sailing
America's Cup hero dies
23 Feb 02 | Sailing
GBR Challenge skipper upbeat
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