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Swiss on course to compete in America's Cup

Switzerland's skipper, Russell Coutts, is to get a chance to challenge his former team, New Zealand.

(Keystone / Laurent Gilieron)

A dispute over Switzerland's right to participate in a major sailing competition, the America's Cup, has been resolved in the country's favour.

An arbitration panel on Tuesday validated a challenge from Switzerland to the current cup-holders, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS).

The row erupted after the RNZYS refused to accept the challenge from the "Societe Nautique de Geneve", which is based on landlocked Lake Geneva. The rules of the America's Cup state that a challenging club's annual regatta must be held "on the sea, or an arm of the sea".

The RNZYS on Tuesday welcomed the ruling by the five-member panel set up to resolve disputes between challengers and defenders of the cup. "This prompt decision... means that we can now bank the Swiss cheque and formally acknowledge a valid challenge," RNZYS commodore, Peter Taylor said.

Switzerland's skipper, Russell Coutts, had accused the RNZYS of banking the Swiss entry fee of $150,000 (SFr263,000) before accepting the challenge.

Taylor said the ruling meant no further questions could be raised at a later date regarding the eligibility of Switzerland's entry. "It clears the way for a regatta that will be contested on the water rather than in the courts," he said.

Challengers for the next cup series begin their regatta in 2002. The winner of the challenger series advances to the America's Cup against New Zealand in 2003.

swissinfo with agencies

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