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  Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 12:36 GMT 13:36 UK
When the Cup runs over
OneWorld: The American challenger has already courted controversy
Rough seas: OneWorld have had a point docked

If America's Cup history has taught us one thing, it is that few campaigns pass by without controversy.

In the heat of the quest for the prized Auld Mug, tensions mount and something can be relied on to cast a shadow of suspicion over proceedings.

From law suits and blazing wars of words to scuba-diving spies, the America's Cup has seen it all, and the 2002/03 instalment promises yet more intrigue.

Before racing even started, US challenger OneWorld was penalised for holding design secrets belonging to rival syndicates Team New Zealand and Prada.

And the whole event was jeopardised at one stage, when sources close to the Cup's arbitration committee revealed that a fear of being sued was making it impossible for the arbiters to do their job properly.

That concern appears to have been allayed for now.

Alan Bond led the first syndicate to dethrone the USA
Bond's bid was shrouded in secrecy

But allegations of foul play will rumble on and the race jurors are sure to be kept busy with all manner of appeals.

Some of these could make incredible headlines.

In 1983 - the year Australia became the first country to beat the USA - a huge argument brewed between challenger and holder over Australia II's "secret keel".

The infamous keel used to be covered up at night to protect it from prying eyes, but one evening, guards chased away skin-divers who tried to sneak a look.

Australia charged the New York Yacht Club with illegal espionage and the NYYC countered by asking the International Yacht Racing Union to disqualify its foe for having an illegal design.

The race went on, and it turned out that Australia II - the smallest boat ever to compete for the America's Cup - did have an extra-heavy keel, fitted with fins.


Britannia rules the waves, but America waives the rules
Embittered British writer

But this was not outlawed and the challengers went on to win a narrow series 4-3.

Acrimony between the USA and Australia dates back to 1967.

In that year, their representative yachts collided shortly after the start of a race the Australia craft went on to win.

It was disqualified, which prompted a flood of complaints, including one from a furious Australian MP who demanded that his country withdraw its US ambassador.

And the Americans have also rubbed up current hosts New Zealand along the way.

In 1988, Team Dennis Conner answered a Kiwi challenge with a giant catamaran and the event descended into a succession of court battles.

An eventual ruling found in favour of the successful US syndicate, but the controversy led to the standardisation of boats under America's Cup Class specifications, which are still in effect today.

England has courted its share of controversy too.

Way back in 1895, the Earl of Dunraven's challenger Valkyrie III apparently won the second race of a series, but was also disqualified.

Dunraven protested so loudly that he was stripped of his honorary NYYC membership.

As a direct result, England did not challenge again until 1934, when another technical decision prompted one disillusioned British writer to declare:

"Britannia rules the waves, but America waives the rules."

His words speak volumes about the passion and pride caught up in any America's Cup campaign.

Sportsmanship and skill should shine through in the Hauraki Gulf, but no-one should be surprised if tempers flare at dockside from time to time.

And no-one should complain either.

Within limits, controversy and scandal have their own place in the world's premier sailing event.

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29 Aug 02 | Sailing
Links to more Americas Cup stories are at the foot of the page.


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