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Team NZ questions yacht rules

Alinghi is the first team through to the Louis Vuitton Cup finals.

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- America's Cup holder Team New Zealand has raised doubts about which yacht the challenger can use in the Louis Vuitton Cup final.

Team New Zealand will race the Louis Vuitton Cup winner in February. Swiss team Alinghi reached the final on Monday, with the other final place yet to be decided.

Team New Zealand could be concerned that the challenging boat will be a new vessel that has not suffered the stresses of the challenger competition, which began in October, but has been configured using latest data from the race course.

The surviving syndicates, which each have two yachts, have all used the same boats so far, keeping what could be their faster boat in the shed ahead of the America's Cup match.

Team New Zealand wrote to Cup organisers on Monday stating it believed there was a clash between the America's Cup Protocol -- the race rules -- and the Louis Vuitton Cup rules.

It said the protocol required a race between "the top yachts" rather than the top yachting clubs, according to the Louis Vuitton official Web site.

Team New Zealand rules adviser Russell Green quoted the America's Cup protocol as saying: "The finals of the challenge selection series will be between the two top yachts in the semifinals."

But the Conditions of Race for the Louis Vuitton Cup specifically allow yacht substitution between all of the rounds of racing in the challenger selection series.

Team New Zealand spokesman Murray Taylor said the syndicate did not want to comment further on the letter.

"We have written the letter and where it goes, I guess we will find out in the fullness of time," he told New Zealand Press Association.

Alinghi's billionaire backer Ernesto Bertarelli told a news conference he was keen for the competition, which has been dogged by legal wrangles, to remain on the water.

"My wish would be that, given the advantages that Team New Zealand already has, being able wait and watch us racing and therefore have more time to prepare, more time to sail, that they will confine themselves to making sure they are faster on the water and make sure they keep the competition on the water.

"I think that's the best thing anyone here can wish for the Cup."

In the Louis Vuitton semifinal repechage, Oracle BMW Racing will face the winner of the Prada-OneWorld series.

The Seattle-based syndicate OneWorld has already been penalised twice by in the Louis Vuitton Cup after admitting it had Team New Zealand design data it should not have had.

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