By Kimball Livingston
Stall: In a shed, a division for one animal.
No. Simply, no.
Stall:In sports, to play worse or more slowly than one is capable of.
Yeah, but in this deal, no.
Stall:Any pretext to prevent or delay action.
Okay, that fits.
Stall:In aerodynamics, a sudden reduction in the lift forces generated by an airfoil, an undesirable phenomenon which may cause a crash.
Yep, that's what we're talking about. The America's Cup as of January, 2008.
I don't know anyone who perceives anything but stalling in the latest efforts of Alinghi's new legal team (Alinghi used to have "the best lawyers" but they fired them) to overturn the court judgment that established BMW Oracle Racing as challenger of record for America's Cup 33. It appears that the Swiss defenders, like the American defenders of 1987/88, committed the hubris of expecting to prevail in court.
Now, time is time.
Only last June, I wrote an account of the various acts of hubris that had come home to BMW Oracle, which once had all of Valencia (well, excepting Grant Dalton) convinced that they were destiny-bound for the final-two as a challenger. I had to include myself in the list, for sitting on an interview of designer Bruce Farr on the assumption that his words would be a hot property once we got to the final two.
More recently, former ISAF chair Paul Henderson wrote an open letter, published on the newsletter Scuttlebutt, which included these words: "There is a solution. Valencia is available. The 2007 Protocol worked just fine. The boats are waiting and are elegant yachts. Bring back Bruno Trouble and Louis Vuitton. Dyer, Luigi, and their team are still able to deliver the integrity of the event. If you need a Challenger of Record, bring back the New York Yacht Club. Schedule the America's Cup for 2009 using the same exact format, equipment, venue as was so successful for 2007. Do not destroy, as you are doing, what was so wonderful in 2007."
That resonated with me because it took me back to a time when I naively assumed that there was no "problem." While racing was still under way in Valencia the future was all intuitively clear in my small brain. Even though the antennae picked up discordant notes about judges who were unhappy because other judges were a bit too close to certain power players (as in, we hope they're using condoms), my Pollyanna glasses saw bright things ahead. I couldn't imagine anything except an America's Cup 33 in ACC boats, to consolidate and pay off the gains in numbers, participation, and visibility of this first Cup in Europe, and then (probably) a new class because, yes, the boys are ready for new toys.
In the midst of AC 32, I wrote:
America's Cup 33 will probably be just as exciting as this one. No more 5-0. It's been 24 years since we've had a contest for the Cup that had this sort of back-and-forth drama, and the new format—the pre-event racing—is responsible. As Alinghi tactician Brad Butterworth said after his come from behind win in Race 6, "The Acts brought all the boats together. If the defender has an advantage, they see it. They go into the LVC and the challengers get tough racing. And the unskirting shows everybody what you've got."
Watching first-time challengers such as Shosholoza perform well against bigger teams gave me a similar thought a long while back, and I wrote a story called Proof of Concept. Seeing this kind of competition in the Cup racing itself convinces me that I am looking at Proof of Concept.
It seemed so obvious.
If you haven't already seen the Alinghi version of the present argument -- that BMW Oracle is challenging in a keelboat with a 90-foot beam -- you can find it on the America's Cup Management web site.
As I understand it, a clerk of the court distributes papers on January 4 (Friday) re. the Alinghi filing and the BMW Oracle response.
If you haven't already seen the most recent BMW Oracle Racing "lacks merit" statement you can find it at Golden Gate Yacht Club.
Also worth a small look-back, check out this excerpt from June 1, 2007. It begins with quotes from Ernesto Bertarelli:
"The problem is, the America's Cup is not earning its living. The Cup is still a game supported by wealthy owners. For the sake of all the sailors and the people who make a living off the America's Cup, we should continue this and get to a state where the America's Cup supports itself."
What's been the hardest part of being the defender?
Meanwhile, New Zealand team boss Grant Dalton's public utterances hint that the divide is less cataclysmic than the characterization making the rounds, which goes like this: 1) The Cup says in Europe, and in the future we have lots of 'tween activities and racing, with lots of teams in the mix, and the trend line of growth continues; or 2) The Cup goes to the antipodes to be squirreled away by the Kiwis (they went five years between winning it in 1995 and defending it in 2000, then three years to the loss in 2003) with an aggressively nationalistic agenda and nationality requirements for the crews that will stunt the growth curve.
Wow, did I really write that? Did I really believe that? Of course I did, because it seemed so real.