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Coutts will drive BMW in America's

  • Story Highlights
  • BMW Oracle sign three-time winner Coutts to lead America's Cup challenge
  • Coutts also skippered Swiss syndicate Alinghi to 2003 America's Cup glory
  • BMW Oracle have now challenged Alinghi for the 33rd America's Cup
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MADRID, Spain (Reuters) -- BMW Oracle have signed three-time America's Cup winner Russell Coutts to lead their next challenge.

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Coutts, left, led New Zealand's successful bid for sailing's most prestigious prize in 1995 and defended it in 2000.

The U.S. syndicate's challenge has not yet been accepted by defender Alinghi while a legal wrangle hangs in the air.

Coutts skippered New Zealand's successful challenge for sailing's most prestigious prize in 1995 and defended it in 2000 before signing up to lead new Swiss syndicate Alinghi for the 2003 America's Cup, taking five of his long-time team-mates with him.

The core Kiwi crew were credited with winning the America's Cup for a European team for the first time since the event began in 1851 but soon after their victory Coutts fell out with Alinghi boss Ernesto Bertarelli and was sacked from the team.

BMW Oracle owner Larry Ellison, who is suing Alinghi for what he says are unfair rules they have set up for the next America's Cup, said he had signed Coutts as both skipper and chief executive for whatever came next.

"Larry's given me pretty much a clean sheet of paper," Coutts told a conference call for reporters. "I've come to the conclusion we both thought very similarly about how to put together a winning team."

Coutts takes over from fellow New Zealander Chris Dickson, who left BMW Oracle after their surprising 5-0 rout at the hands of Italy's Luna Rossa in the semifinals of the challenger selection series.

"I agree there is a tremendous amount of work to assemble a team, to understand what BMW Oracle did last time," Coutts said.

"There were a lot of very, very good things done and we need to try and build on that as well as bring in new people ... We'll be working hard at that over the next period of time," he added.

BMW Oracle have challenged Alinghi for the 33rd America's Cup, arguing they should be accepted as the challenger of record rather than a new Spanish club which was created for the purpose. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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