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America's Cup Badly Damaged in Sledgehammer Attack

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (March 14, 1997) — The America's Cup, the symbol of international yachting supremacy, was badly damaged in an attack by a sledgehammer-wielding Maori protester today, according to a report from the Associated Press.

New Zealand police told the international news agency that a man entered the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron clubhouse, went to the room where the prized Cup was displayed, broke the display case, and hit the Victorian-era trophy several times with the sledgehammer.

The man was "in a frenzy" and was chanting in the "Maori language," RNZYS Commodore John Heise told the Associated Press afterward. The Maoris are the native New Zealand people.

"The cup has been very, very badly beaten up," Heise is quoted as saying. "He hit it a number of times with a big sledgehammer. It is quite extensively damaged to the main center piece."

The yacht club won the America's Cup in 1995 when Team New Zealand's Black Magic defeated Young America in San Diego, and plans to defend it in 2000. Last year, Maori tribal groups had opposed the development of an America's Cup Centre in Auckland's Viaduct Basin area, where the competing sailing teams would be headquartered. However, all legal disputes and appeals over the redevelopment were officially resolved in recent months and construction is set to begin April 1.

According to the Associated Press, witnesses told police that the man tried but failed to get the cup out of the broken cabinet. The man removed his jacket to reveal a T-shirt, which bore Maori slogans, the police said. "He seems to have been a member of some protest group," a police spokeswoman told the Associated Press.

Notes which claim responsibility for the attack on the America's Cup were received by the media. The notes purport to come from a group called the Tino Rangatiratanga Liberation Front and they threaten action against the Government, according to a TV New Zealand report.

Following the attack, nearby building workers grabbed the man and held him for the police.

The America's Cup is insured by Sun Alliance Insurance for NZ$500,000, according to a TV New Zealand report. The Cup, originally crafted by R. & G. Garrard jewelers circa 1848 in London, will be repaired, if possible. If it cannot be repaired, it will reconstructed in England from the original drawings, according to the Associated Press report.

See also Ivor Wilkins' Report: America's Cup Beaten With Sledgehammer.

For additional details, see the TV New Zealand website.

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