A state judge Tuesday disqualified the San Diego Yacht Club as the successful defender in the America's Cup challenge against a New Zealand group last September, and awarded the international trophy to the New Zealanders.

State Supreme Court Justice Carmen Ciparick said, "San Diego ... violated the spirit" of the 101-year-old Deed of the Gift which sets out the rules for the America's Cup race.The San Diego crew, skippered by Dennis Conner, sailed a catamaran to victory against the Mercury Bay Yacht Club's 90-foot monohull in a race off San Diego last September.

The judge said whatever the deed does or does not say about the race, "it is clear that a catamaran may not defend an America's Cup competition against a monohull."

The Mercury Bay Yacht Club of Auckland, New Zealand, first came to court in July 1987, arguing they should be allowed to challenge San Diego in a one-on-one race for the Cup in a boat larger than the 12-meter yacht ordinarily used.

The New Zealanders also argued the race should be held in an interval less than the customary once every four years.

The deed establishing the Cup only requires a 10-month interval between races and sets no limit for boat length; it also does not require a series of elimination races as there have been for the past several decades.

The judge agreed on Dec. 21, 1987, and ordered San Diego to defend the Cup against the New Zealand challenge and its 90-foot craft. San Diego was to use the 12-meter boat, which runs about 45 feet at the waterline.

But Conner instead decided to use a catamaran - which is a much faster and more maneuverable craft - and easily defeated the challenging craft financed by Michael Fay.

Fay went back to Ciparick after losing that race and asked her to invalidate the results.