SAN DIEGO -- Nippon Challenge, the Japanese syndicate that will not have its best skipper at the helm in America's Cup competition, yesterday was slotted to open the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger trials today against oneAustralia.
With John Bertrand as skipper, oneAustralia has been the fastest boat on the water here since winning the International America's Cup Class world championships last fall.
Australian-born Peter Gilmour, Nippon's sailing coach and the No. 2-ranked match racing skipper in the world, was added to Nippon's crew list last month.
Two New Zealand syndicates and the French team challenged Gilmour's eligibility, saying he was neither a Japanese national nor a bona fide resident of Japan.
Representatives of America's Cup '95 and the Challenger of Record Committee, decided yesterday that Gilmour did not meet eligibility requirements.
Nippon Challenge skipper Makota Namba said that "with or without Gilmour, our team is ready for the competition to begin. We are a team, not one man, and we have been preparing for this since 1992."
Regardless of the decision, Gilmour will be allowed to remain as coach of the Nippon team and probably could sail as the 17th man -- so long as he does not communicate with the 16-person sailing crew.
The 17th man slot is usually allotted to a major sponsor or a non-sailing member of a team as a reward for contributions or services rendered.
Bertrand, the only non-American to win the America's Cup (Australia II, 1983), did not attend the draw for seeding yesterday. He and his crew were out for a final tuneup of oneAustralia.
In other races to open the challenger eliminations today, Team New Zealand (Russell Coutts) drew Spain (Pedro Campos) and France (Marc Pajot) drew Sydney '95 (Chris Law and Syd Fischer).
Young America ready
PACT '95, the defense syndicate from Bangor, Maine, has its new boat, Young America, ready to open competition in the Citizen Cup defender trials tomorrow, according to syndicate president John Marshall.
Last week, a freak windstorm blew through the group's compound and knocked Young America out of its cradle, causing several hundred thousand dollars of damage.
"The tragedy that struck our boat galvanized the crew," said Marshall, adding that crews worked around the clock for eight days to complete repairs.
The group's entire sail inventory was damaged in the windstorm as well, and the boat will sail with new and repaired sails tomorrow.
Hemond-Dent on board
Susan Hemond-Dent, daughter of Orioles general manager Roland Hemond, was added to the America3 crew this week. Hemond-Dent, 35, will crew as a sewer man, helping in the middle of the boat and stowing sails.
Hemond-Dent has been an assistant sailing team coach with America3 since March of last year.