Russell Coutts, the controversial New Zealand skipper who has dominated America's Cup racing for a decade, was fired yesterday by the Swiss team he led to victory last year.
Coutts, an Olympic gold medalist, won the last three Cup regattas, going undefeated in 14 final races, but his relations with coworkers have been rough. He won for Team New Zealand in 1995 in San Diego, defended the Cup in Auckland in 2000 while squabbling with team leaders, then moved to Switzerland to lead a challenge, infuriating fellow Kiwis.
"I was surprised to receive a brief phone call from Ernesto Bertarelli's lawyers which was apparently immediately followed by a media release issued by Bertarelli's staff," Coutts said from Portugal.
Coutts joined Swiss billionaire Bertarelli on Team Alinghi, which easily won the Cup in February 2003 in Auckland. Alinghi will defend the trophy in the Mediterranean in 2007.
The New Zealander differed with Bertarelli over the new Cup venue, the type of boat selected and other organizational details. Coutts refused to sail with Alinghi in several regattas since the Cup and Alinghi announced it has "terminated its cooperation with Russell Coutts, effective immediately."
* SOCCER: Former star striker Juergen Klinsmann agreed to a two-year contract to coach Germany, hoping to rebuild a slumping team in time for the 2006 World Cup.
Klinsmann, 39, will become the ninth coach of the three-time World Cup champion and the youngest in the country's history. Negotiations are still under way with the German Soccer Federation on how much control he will have to make changes. . . .
Iraq will host China for a place in the semifinals of soccer's Asian Cup after it beat three-time champion Saudi Arabia, 2-1, in its last group match. Uzbekistan also advanced with a 1-0 win over Turkmenistan.
* AUTOS: International Speedway Corp., the largest operator of racetracks in the United States, said it agreed to buy 676 acres on Staten Island for a long-sought NASCAR track in the New York City area.
The company, based in Daytona Beach, Fla., said it signed contracts to purchase two adjacent tracts near the Goethals Bridge, which connects the New York City borough to New Jersey, and will build an 80,000-seat, 3/4-mile raceway by about 2009.
* TENNIS: Ashley Harkleroad scored one of the biggest victories of her career, beating 13th-seeded Patty Schnyder, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, in the opening round of the Acura Classic in Carlsbad, Calif.
Harkleroad, ranked 109th in the world, came from behind in the third set to win the final two games and surprise Schnyder.
The tournament features seven of the world's top 10 players, including Maria Sharapova in her first action since winning her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon.
* BASKETBALL: The Dallas Mavericks traded power forward Danny Fortson to the Seattle SuperSonics for Calvin Booth, bringing back the 7-footer they once thought might help solve their woes at center.
* COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Ben Martin, a Naval Academy graduate who coached at the Air Force Academy from 1958 to '77 and was a former broadcaster, died on Saturday of complications from a heart attack. He was 83.
-- From News Services
and Staff Reports