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Brits Show Spirit of the Challenge

By Bob Fisher

WEYMOUTH, England — The British Challenge for the America's Cup came to life with the announcement that the Royal Dorset Yacht Club had accepted an invitation to compete in the Road to America's Cup Regatta in Auckland at the beginning of April.

The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron extended the invitation to the British club when the Spanish, who were one of the four original invitees, announced that they were not ready at this stage. The Royal Dorset YC joins the New York Yacht Club, the San Francisco YC and the Societe Nautique Grau du Rois in a round-robin competition, the winner of which will meet Team New Zealand, led by Russell Coutts, in the final. The St. Francis YC was not invited to this year's event.

Chris Law, rather than Lawrie Smith, has been chosen to skipper the British effort. Syndicate head Chris Witty said Law was the man with the most experience of the international America's Cup Class (IACC) in Britain — Smith has yet to sail one of these boats — but stressed that the appointment was for this regatta only. Witty added that Law's position in the world match-racing circuit had also affected his selection, and so too, most probably, had the fact that Smith is totally engaged in his Whitbread project.

The crew, as yet unannounced, will include Chris Mason and Guy Barron, who were part of the Japanese challenge in 1995. Mason will be responsible for the recruitment of a crew with sufficient big boat and match racing experience to back Law, who sailed the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron's challenger at the start of the Louis Vuitton Cup in 1995.

Despite this flurry of activity, there has not been an announcement of any other progress with the Royal Dorset challenge. Whitbread activity has perhaps overshadowed the America's Cup in corporate thinking in Britain, but in the end there was only one British-sponsored entry in the round-the-world race, and little money expended elsewhere in sailing activities.

Bob Fisher is a renowned nautical
scribe living in Lymington, England.

See also the Royal Dorset Yacht Club fact sheet.


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