Skip to main content

RAK Your Brains Out

For months, the sailing world has had a field day(s) with images of a Middle Eastern America’s Cup, as the defender, Ernesto Bertarelli’s charade YC, the Societe Nautique de Geneve (SNG), had hoped to hold the 33rd AC in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) nation of Ras Al Khaimah (RAK). Reportedly, the tiny nation, "conveniently" located precariously close to Iran, has spent hundreds



For months, the sailing world has had a field day(s) with images of a Middle Eastern America’s Cup, as the defender, Ernesto Bertarelli’s charade YC, the Societe Nautique de Geneve (SNG), had hoped to hold the 33rd AC in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) nation of Ras Al Khaimah (RAK). Reportedly, the tiny nation, "conveniently" located precariously close to Iran, has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to prepare for an AC, building infrastructure and signing international deals. While RAK’s intentions were undoubtedly good, they chose the wrong bedfellow, as Alinghi (Bertarelli’s) syndicate, misinterpreted the Deed of Gift, a sacred document that governs how the Cup must be raced. The Deed explicitly says that any Deed of Gift Challenge (a two-boat affair that is a best-of-three match race sailed in large multi-hulls) that is to be contested in the winter months must take place in the Southern Hemisphere. In May of 2008 Justice Cahn, then a New York Supreme Court judge, allowed that the Cup, which must be held this February, could be raced in Valencia, Spain (home of the 32nd Defense), provided that both parties agreed to the venue. It remains to be seen if this will be the outcome.

Larry Ellison’s BMW/Oracle campaign successfully campaigned to the New York Supreme Court’s Justice Kornreich that the Deed explicitly states that the cup must be raced in the Southern Hemisphere in the winter, but they also argued that RAK was a potential safety hazard given the United States’ "strained" relationship with Iran. While Justice Kornreich did not consider this argument, she did write a coda saying that as a United States judge that she would not allow the Cup to be sailed in a place that would prohibit access to anyone. The UAE, remember, does not allow anyone to enter who has an Israeli stamp on his or her passport. Given the ethnicity of certain key figures in Ellison’s campaign, this could have been seriously problematic.

"Ras Al Khaimah has put enormous time and effort into this 33rd America's Cup project," said Lucien Masmejan, Societe Nautique de Geneve’s (SNG) legal counsel. "We thank them and feel sorry for this unexpected result out of the New York court. We are satisfied, however, as Justice Kornreich confirmed that the Deed of Gift Match will be conducted under SNG rules as she had already ruled in a previous court order.:"

Said BMW/Oracle in a press release: "We're pleased with the court's decision today. that Alinghi's choice of the venue for the 33rd America's Cup was not allowed under the Deed of Gift. We look forward to Justice Kornreich's decision later this week regarding two additional issues. First, we hope she will agree with our position that Alinghi cannot add additional ballast, equipment or sailors to the boat after it has been measured for compliance with the Deed of Gift's restriction on length along the load water line. Enabling any team to add additional weight after measurement - thus lengthening its load water line and increasing its speed - violates the Deed of Gift, decades of sailing practice, and the spirit of the rules that govern the America's Cup. Second, Justice Kornreich understands the need for a fair and impartial jury. Our position is that the sailing jury must have the normal powers to adjudicate. We remain motivated to negotiate all remaining issues with Alinghi to ensure a fair, competitive and successful America's Cup in February 2010. We took a big step towards this goal today."

Cup pundits have long hypothesized that Alinghi designed their magnificent-looking Alinghi 5 for the extremely light airs of RAK. This could throw a serious problem at the Swiss, as Ellison's massive trimaran seems to be a far more versatile boat when it comes to variable wind conditions. Still, given the fact that this puppet Cup will be raced (as of now) under Bertarelli’s "rules", it will be interesting to see how aggressive the defender is in forcing his hand, and if the final verdict of the 33rd defense will come via a gun at a finishing line or a gavel swing in a court room.

Given the massive amount of legal wrangling that has defined the 33rd Cup, the sailing world will breath easier when this joke of a Cup cycle concludes and sailboats that are powered by humans-not engines- return to the racecourse.

Related

Background-02

Notice to Mariners: A Blog from the SAIL Editors

As a teenager, I stumbled across a copy of Derek Lundy’s Godforsaken Sea in the back room of a used bookshop. I had never heard of the Vendée Globe and frankly found all the boat-speak in the first 50 pages a little difficult to get through. But Lundy’s storytelling and the draw ...read more

Screen-Shot-2022-01-13-at-9.26.59-AM2048x

VIDEO: Celestial Navigation Episode 2

Celestial navigation is an invaluable tool for all kinds of sailors. In episode two of the celestial navigation series, learn the basic elements of navigation and the sight reduction process using declination and GHA to determine the Geographic Position and navigate using a ...read more

Film-poster

Cruising: Year of the Sea Shanty

Along with other timeless pursuits, like baking sourdough and gardening, singing sea shanties surged back into popularity during the recent lockdown, thanks, in part, to the app TikTok and its “duet” feature, which allows singers from around the world create music together. By ...read more

Book-Cover-9780712353700

Book Review: Sailor Song

Sailor Song is the ultimate guide to the music of working sailors during the 18th and 19th centuries. The book includes lyrics and sheet music for 50 of the most beloved sea songs with fascinating historical background on the adjoining page. Chapter introductions provide ...read more

Screen Shot 2022-01-12 at 10.42.33 AM

Race Update: RORC Transat

With the fleet leaders about halfway to Grenada, the 2022 RORC Transatlantic is shaking out to be a tactically interesting one. The race, now in its 8th edition, began on Saturday with 30 teams ranging from 70-foot catamarans to a 28-foot JPK 1010. Early in the race, light winds ...read more

01-LEAD-IMG_1585

Experience: Fire Down Below

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, local racing had resumed with household crews only. My wife, though, while always up for a pleasure sail, was not up for this kind of thing, so, for the fifth time in what was any measure an unusual sailing season, I found myself singlehanding my ...read more

BestBoats2022-logo

Best Boats 2022

In case you hadn’t heard, the fall 2021 boat show season was one for the record books. If there was ever any doubt the sailing public still enjoys making its way to Newport, Rhode Island, or Annapolis, Maryland, to see the latest in boat design, those doubts were put to rest ...read more

01-LEAD-Dominique-David-2048x

Mulithull Show Coming to La Grande-Motte

After a year without boat shows, 2021 proved to be a blockbuster summer and fall for events around the globe, and the International Mulithull Show is looking to continue that trend in 2022. First held in 2010, the show, which takes place in La Grand-Motte, France, on the shores ...read more