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Switzerland's skipper cheers legal victory over America's Cup

Swiss challenge boss, Ernesto Bertarelli (left), and skipper Russell Coutts

(Keystone)

Switzerland's skipper, Russell Coutts, has welcomed a decision by the holders of the America's Cup, New Zealand, to accept the Swiss challenge for yachting's top prize.

His comments come after an arbitration panel validated a challenge from Switzerland's "Societe Nautique de Geneve" to the current cup-holders, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS).

The panel's decision followed bitter legal wrangling over the RNZYS's refusal to accept the challenge from the Swiss club, 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".

Coutts, who won the Cup for New Zealand earlier this year before deciding to race for Switzerland, said: "The speed with which they accepted the Swiss challenge showed that the arguments put forward over the last four months by the RNZYS and its commodore, Peter Taylor, had no foundation."

Taylor said the arbitration panel's decision meant that: "There can be no questions raised at a later date by other challengers about the eligibility of the Swiss challenge."

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.

The Swiss challenge is headed by Geneva billionaire, Ernesto Bertarelli, who poached Coutts and other key members of the team in June this year.

swissinfo with agencies

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