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The continuing saga of Russell Coutts and the America's Cup has not abated. Late last week, it appeared that Coutts and Ernesto Bertarelli, the boss of Alinghi, reached a settlement where Coutts would not sail in 2007 in Valencia. For those who don't spend a lot of time following the antics of the billionaire heads of two Cup syndicates, Bertarelli and Larry Ellison, from Oracle, got together after a falling-out between Coutts and Bertarelli and changed the eligibility requirements in a deliberate bid to keep Coutts from racing for another team in 2007. After months of speculation and wrangling, Bertarelli says that he and Coutts "have amicably settled their past disagreements. As part of this settlement, Russell Coutts shall not sail for another team in the 32nd America's Cup." But that was last week. This week it has been learned that the door to Coutts participation in the next Cup is not completely closed. Even though the two have "reached a settlement", the agreement is banning Coutts from "sailing." The unanswered question is whether the change in protocol prevents Coutts from joining a syndicate in a non-sailing capacity. With Coutts sailing ability, his engineering knowledge and technical know-how, he would be a tremendous asset to any team. Coutts, an Olympic gold medalist at Los Angeles in 1984, steered New Zealand's Black Magic to victory in the America's Cup in San Diego in 1995. He then orchestrated the Cup's defense in Auckland in 2000 before defecting to Alinghi. Two years later Alinghi went on to win the America's Cup, beating Team New Zealand 5-0 to become the first challenger in the history to win the America's Cup at their first attempt. Coutts has set a record with 14 straight America's Cup wins, nine with New Zealand and five with Alinghi. To add fire to the speculation surrounding Coutts, the Italian newspaper, Il Giornale, reported that Team Luna Rossa (formerly Prada), was ready to announce that Coutts had joined their syndicate, but held off with their press release because Coutts' legal situation had not been resolved. According to yachting commentator Peter Lester, "Never say never in this game...there are bound to be more twists in it." To be continued...

For those of you who follow college sailing, there was a big regatta down at Old Dominion University over the holiday weekend. The Aaron Szambecki Team Race Intersectional was won by Georgetown University, after two days of sailing with 43 races completed. Final results: College (wins, losses): Georgetown (15-2), Hobart (12-5), Old Dominion University (10-7), University of Southern California (7-10), Tufts (7-7), St. Mary's (6-8), Charleston (5-9), and TAMUG (Texas A & M University at Galveston) (0-14)

News from the Marqueses Islands is rather interesting. Maud Fontenoy, a 26-year-old Frenchwoman, became the first woman to row solo across the Pacific Ocean. She arrived in French Polynesia last Saturday, March 26, after nearly 4,960 miles that took her 73 days. She cast off from the Peruvian port of Callao on January 12 in Oceor, a 24.6-foot cedar-framed, fiberglass and Kevlar rowboat. Her route followed that of the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, whose 1947 trans-Pacific trip with five crew on the raft Kon-Tiki took 101 days. Fontenoy had the advantage of GPS navigation and a satellite communications system on board, but that in no way diminishes her Herculean feat. In 2003, Fontenoy became the first woman to row across the North Atlantic Ocean alone

It seems that the Volvo Ocean Race is going Hollywood. The Walt Disney Company is making the second in the Pirates of the Caribbean series, and will use footage from the Volvo Ocean Race. In fact, they are building a racing yacht in Lymington, Hampshire in time for the round-the-world race from Galicia, Spain in November. She will be called The Black Pearl and will be completed for the race which finishes in Sweden in June 2006, after stopovers in Cape Town, Melbourne, Rio de Janeiro, Baltimore, Portsmouth and Rotterdam. While Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, and Orlando Bloom plan to take on the high seas for real by joining a round-the-world yacht race, they won't sail the entire race. Knightley will join the boat while it is in Europe, Bloom will cover South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and Depp will be on board when the yacht reaches the United States and Brazil. And lest you fear that Disney is trading star power for wanting to win the race, most likely the actors will not be part of the crew, but be on board when the boat arrives at the various stopovers. (If anyone of the three gets involved with some in-port racing, it would be Johnny Depp, who is a keen sailor). And when on board, the stars will not experience the rigors of the high seas. There have been some rumors that certain amenities will be offered to the stars, such as Egyptian cotton sheets, fresh flowers and specialty menus. That should sit well for the rest of the crew who must live with the "usual accouterments" on a racing vessel. Even more interesting is that Disney is said to be speaking to Paul Cayard, Kenny Read and Chris Larsen about taking the helm of Black Pearl. Roy Disney, an avid sailor on his own maxZ86 Pyewacket, is not involved with the deal as he is no longer part of the Disney empire.

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