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Swiss sail into stormy waters over America's Cup

Swiss regatas take place on Lake Geneva and not at sea, as the America's Cup demands

(Keystone)

Swiss sailing officials have appealed for the country's sailors to be allowed to compete in the America's Cup, amid a bitter row over the validity of their application.

The president of Switzerland's sailing federation, Bernhard Stegmeier, waded into the fray after Switzerland's skipper, Russell Coutts, accused the present cup holders, New Zealand, of dragging their feet over accepting the Swiss challenge.

Stegmeier said the Swiss had "scrupulously observed all the criteria for acceptance of the challengers" and should be allowed to compete in the elimination series which starts in October 2002.

Coutts, a former New Zealand skipper, has accused the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron of banking the Swiss entry fee of $150,000 (SFr264,000), but said they had not accepted the challenge.

New Zealand denied it had banked the cheque.

The Swiss application has run into difficulties because 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 Swiss challenge comes from the Geneva Nautical Society, which is based on landlocked Lake Geneva.

The dispute is to be decided by a five-member arbitration panel.

The winner of the challenger elimination series will take on New Zealand for the Cup in February 2003.

swissinfo with agencies

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