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13 to race in Cup qualifier

Thirteen yachts from eight nations will compete in the Louis Vuitton Cup, which begins Oct. 18 off Auckland, New Zealand. The Louis Vuitton Cup ultimately will select the challenger for the America's Cup, to be raced Feb. 15.

Two of the challengers are surprises.

Russia, which tried to compete for the Cup but failed to meet certain conditions, made it this time.

The other was the entry from Australia led by Syd Fischer, a free-spirited Aussie who is challenging for the fifth time, equal to the record of Sir Thomas Lipton, who last raced in 1930.

Lipton lost all five races. Fischer has lost four straight. But this time he has taken a different approach.

Fischer has assembled a crew of Australian sailors ages 18-22, led by 19-year-old skipper Jim Spithill, a world champion in junior class match racing.

In the spirit of the Young America syndicate, which has been the leader with young sailors, Fischer has named his yacht Young Australia 2000.

The crew has not been handed a fast yacht. Indeed, it is the old Sydney '95 that was eliminated early in the 1995 Cup off San Diego. Unable to find a sponsor to fund a new boat, Fischer has made some changes, but the pitch is to raise Cup enthusiasm among young sailors Down Under.

After all, Australia went wild when it won the Cup from the Americans in 1983.

One can't fault Fischer for looking to the future. That approach worked for local Ed Baird, who has twice made it to the America's Cup scene.

The 13 who will race at Auckland include five U.S. challengers. They are AmericaOne, St. Francis Yacht Club, San Francisco; Young America, New York Yacht Club/Young America Challenge;Stars and Stripes, Team Dennis Conner, San Diego; America True, America True, San Francisco; and Abracadabra 2000, Aloha Racing Foundation, Hawaii.

Other challengers are from France (two syndicates), Italy, Switzerland, Japan, Spain, Russia and Australia.