On Wednesday, March 26, 2008 Tom Ehman and Russell Coutts from BMW Oracle Racing traveled to Geneva to meet with Alinghi’s lead council Lucien Masmejan and Societe Nautique Geneve's (SNG) Vice Commodore Fred Meyer, with the intention of settling some unresolved details regarding the 33rd America’s Cup, including the “when”. The timeline for when the first starting gun will fire in the 33rd America’s Cup has been a point of major contention as of late. In November of 2007 Justice Herman Cahn ruled that the Golden Gate Yacht Club would be the official Challenger of Record; Alinghi contested this point and lost on March 18, 2008 when Justice Cahn upheld his previous decision.
This is where things get sticky. Since the 33rd America’s Cup will likely be a Deed-of-Gift challenge, the “when” is governed by the Deed of Gift, which states that the Cup will be defended ten months after it has been decided that the next Cup shall be a Deed-of-Gift affair. For their part, BMW Oracle Racing contests that they offered Alinghi “tolling” rights, meaning that the 10-month countdown would not start until Justice Cahn had finished deliberating on Alinghi’s appeal; furthermore, they claim that they made this offer in front of Justice Cahn, and that Alinghi turned down their offer.
Alinghi took an initial hard stance following Justice Cahn’s March 18 ruling, declaring that it’s time to take the Cup wrangling out of the courtroom and settle things on the water. The trouble, however, is that BMW Oracle is calling for an October 2008 starting gun to fire. Alinghi claims that this does not give them enough time to design, build, and train on the 90-foot by 90-foot trimarans, which will be the boats used for the 33rd defense. As a result, Alinghi has requested the same tolling rights which they had previously turned down; BMW Oracle Racing claims that they are under no obligation to grant this extra time allowance, and wishes to move forward with an October starting gun.
Yesterday, Cup fans started to see the first inclinations that Alinghi would take this matter back to Justice Cahn to settle when, in yesterday’s press releases, Alinghi’s Lucien Masmejan notably started back pedaling away from the “on-the-water settlement” concept by dropping this bomb:
"We remain committed to trying to move the fight from the court room back to the water but the actions of GGYC are making this extremely difficult to achieve. GGYC has successfully guaranteed itself entry via the Courts to the America’s Cup Match for the first time, despite its strong statements that its legal action was for the benefit of all Challengers. We will use all avenues open to us to ensure that they are forced to compete in a competitive race in the spirit and tradition of the America’s Cup.”
Less than twelve hours later Ernesto Bertarelli, Alinghi’s president, issued a press release saying:
“Larry Ellison wants the America’s Cup, but he doesn’t seem to be prepared to win it through a competitive regatta on the water. Through his actions he has successfully eliminated 12 entered teams, destroyed plans for a 2009 multi-challenge event in Valencia and through the legal system has guaranteed himself a place in the America’s Cup Match, something he has never before achieved on the water. Now Larry Ellison seeks to win the America’s Cup through its legal strategy rather than racing Alinghi on the water. GGYC continues to mislead SNG: it had agreed to suspend the 10-month notice period for the duration of the legal proceedings, however now wants to force us to race in a time frame that won’t allow SNG to prepare its defense or an event that will satisfy Cup enthusiasts.”
The press release went on to state, this time quoting Lucien Masmejan, “SNG has repeatedly stated that it wants the competition back on the water and out of the courts; however the GGYC’s consistent rejection of a competitive and sporting match in 2009 has given the Defender no alternative but to return to Justice Cahn.”
For Cup enthusiasts, this is an expected-yet-disappointing turn of events. Many fans thought that the court-room shenanigans had ended and that soon the Cup would return to the water, if only in a shadow-form, which falls far short of the spectacular racing that was enjoyed in 2007.
Posted: March 27, 2008