The Australian who designed the only non-U.S. boat ever to win the America's Cup says Americans are "chicken-hearted" for not letting him in the next competition.

"The American emblem, the bald eagle, should be changed to a spastic canary," said Ben Lexcen, whose winged-keel wonder, Australia II, won the 1983 Cup.

"The decision smacks of 300 million people in the most technologically advanced place in the world being dead-scared of 3 million sheep farmers," Lexcen told United Press International in Sydney.

His ire was sparked by the decision of cupholder Dennis Conner's Sail America Foundation Wednesday to hold a two-boat, head-to-head series for yachting's top prize against New Zealand in oversized yachts next August.

Sail America, forced to race by court order, said it will not allow seven challengers from four other nations to compete: Two each from Japan, England and France, plus the Australians.

Alan Bond, the Australian beer baron for whom Lexcen works, is "mad as hell," said a spokesman, adding Bond will mount a legal challenge to his exclusion.

By deft legal maneuvering, New Zealand banker Michael Fay forced Sail America into a cup showdown three years ahead of schedule in huge boats up to 90 feet on the waterline, twice the size of the 12-meters in use for the past 30 years.

He won his case for a race in New York State Supreme Court last week. Now, Sail America is exercising rights it claims under the 100-year-old cup Deed of Gift, one of which is to refuse to race anyone but the challenger of record -- Fay.

Sail America official Tom Ehman said, "We're entirely sympathetic with Australia and everyone else that wanted to compete in the next America's Cup."

Ehman said Sail America's goal now is to beat New Zealand as quickly as possible, then get on with scheduling a multinational event of the sort it had in the works before Fay interceded -- a regatta off San Diego in 1991, with up to 21 challengers in traditional 12-meter yachts.

Said Ehman, "We understand and sympathize with Bond, but his anger is misdirected. Michael Fay is to blame."