Prada lawyers may challenge mast legality

Alleged violation centers on `shared knowledge'

February 05, 2000|By Bruce Stannard | Bruce Stannard,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- Lawyers for Italy's Prada America's Cup team are gathering evidence for a possible challenge over the legality of the carbon-fiber racing masts used by rival AmericaOne.

Prada believes AmericaOne may have violated Article 17 of the America's Cup protocol, which specifically forbids "shared knowledge."

The suggestion is that three American syndicates, AmericaOne, Stars and Stripes and Young America, which all had their masts built by the same company in Nevada, may have benefited by sharing various design concepts.

Last night, Prada syndicate chief Patrizio Bertelli briefed Italian journalists over his concerns, but made it clear he was reluctant to launch a formal legal challenge at this stage.

Prado beat AmericaOne today to even the best-of-nine series at 4-4. The winner of the series will go on to meet Team New Zealand in the America's Cup finals beginning Feb. 19.

In his briefing last night, Bertelli expressed the hope that the Italians would win the event on the water and not have to resort to the protest room.

He also indicated that he saw the legality of the AmericaOne mast ultimately as a question for the New Zealand defenders, who have the right to refuse to accept a challenger that has not strictly complied with Cup protocol.

But today, Team New Zealand syndicate chief Sir Peter Blake said he had no intention of taking up the legal challenge.

"The Italians want New Zealand to fire their bullets for them," he said. "We are not about to do that. If they do have evidence, it is up to them to be big boys and bring it forward. We are not about to do their dirty work for them."

Blake said the mast allegations may become a matter for the defender, but at the moment there is no intention of pursuing it.

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