Sport: Do the Rules Now Rule the Waves?

The America's Cup wallows in a slough of bickering

The veneer of decorum that shrouds the baser competitive instincts at Newport, R.I., during an America's Cup summer suddenly seemed in danger of self-destructing. As rain clouds and brisk northeast winds rolled in for the challengers' semifinals last week, the four remaining foreign boats—Australia II, Britain's Victory '83, Italy's Azzurra and Canada 1—did their best to concentrate on the business at hand. But a series of byzantine maneuvers by American yachtsmen threatened to turn the dueling on the high seas into an off-the-water battle over rulebook technicalities.

The first controversy involved the radical keel...

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