New York Yacht Club and Aga Khan join sailing forces

Sat Jul 6, 1:26 PM ET

By DENNIS REDMONT, Associated Press Writer

PORTO CERVO, Sardinia - headed by the Aga Khan and the playground of the international jet set signed an agreement Saturday to team up with the ritzy New York Yacht Club for joint regattas, training and other activities.

The New York Yacht Club, holder of the America's Cup for 132 years, has similar agreements with three other clubs, two in Britain and one in San Francisco. But this was the first with a Mediterranean club, and the signing brought the New York club's commodore to this port in northern Sardinia.

"If we didn't think we had a great future together, we would not be here," commodore Charles Dana III said.

Prince Karim Aga Khan told The Associated Press that cooperation might even extend to team racing and joint financing of a vessel for a challenge race.

Among the high-profile visitors known to make stops in this port are King Juan Carlos of Spain, sports stars, fashion models, and Italian premier and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, who own villas in this area. It has recently undergone a boom with U.S. investment in hotels and resorts.

On Sept. 11, members of the New York Yacht Club were sailing their craft here after running in the Jubilee Races at Cowes, England, and the two clubs held a moving interfaith harborside memorial.

The New York Yacht Club is fielding a challenge to the America's Cup in New Zealand next October with Dennis Conner running the Stars and Stripes team. Conner, four-time winner of the cup, has been a member of the NYYC for 20 years.

The Yacht Club of Costa Smeralda, founded by the Aga Khan 35 years ago in the crystal clear and breeze-swept waters of this Mediterranean island, contested the America's Cup in 1983 at Newport. Its boat, Azzurra, finished third in the Louis Vuitton Cup, causing a surprise at the historic challenge.

The Yacht Club of Costa Smeralda is not involved in the America's Cup 2002 edition, but two other Italian boats are: the Prada Challenge, owned by Patrizio Bertelli sailing for the Yacht Club of Punta Ala; and Mascalzone, owned by Vincenzo Onorato, for the Reale Yacht Club Savoia.

The Aga Khan is the Imam of the Ismaili Muslims and heads a community spread throughout 25 countries, from Afghanistan ( news - web sites) to Uganda in addition to the United States and European nations.