Unbending

BMW Oracle Racing’s Tom Ehman and Russell Coutts traveled to Geneva to meet with Alinghi’s Lucien Masmejan and Societe Nautique Geneve's (SNG) Vice Commodore Fred Meyer today to discuss details for an impending Deed of Gift challenge, which will likely constitute the 33rd America’s Cup. Of prime interest is the discussion of when the event will be held. BMW Oracle Racing’s stance
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BMW Oracle Racing’s Tom Ehman and Russell Coutts traveled to Geneva to meet with Alinghi’s Lucien Masmejan and Societe Nautique Geneve's (SNG) Vice Commodore Fred Meyer today to discuss details for an impending Deed of Gift challenge, which will likely constitute the 33rd America’s Cup. Of prime interest is the discussion of when the event will be held. BMW Oracle Racing’s stance is that the next Cup should take place in October of 2008, which is just over ten month’s time from Justice Cahn’s November 27, 2007 decision that the Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) will be the official challenger of Record for the 33rd Cup. Alinghi, of course, filed suit against Judge Cahn’s ruling and argued for redress, which was denied by Justice Cahn on March 18, 2008.

For those who are just tuning into this latest Cup debacle, BMW Oracle Racing claims that they formally offered Alinghi “tolling” rights, meaning that the ten-month timeline specified in the Deed of Gift for the first starting gun of a Deed of Gift Challenge should not begin until Justice Cahn reached his final decision on the matter. BMW Oracle Racing claims that they made this offer in front of Justice Cahn, but that Alinghi turned down their offer.

Alinghi claims that an October 2008 starting gun does not give them enough time to build, design, and adequately test their boat, which will likely be a 90-foot by 90-foot trimaran. "We are not in a position to race this year because we always understood that tolling would take place during the legal proceedings,” said Meyers in a press release. “Furthermore, we have not started construction of our boat and will not be ready to compete this year. We are surprised as to why Larry Ellison, who considers himself a competitive sailor, would wish to take part in a second rate race or win by legal maneuvers."

BMW Oracle Racing sees the situation from a different perspctive. Says Ehman, “When we challenged we gave them twelve months notice, not the required minimum of ten. During the litigation we proposed a tolling agreement that they rejected. After Justice Cahn's November 27th decision, we proposed another ten months from then - October 1, 3 and 5, 2008. They filed new motions with the court two days after Christmas. The Court has now rejected those motions; and Justice Cahn has said our original challenge is valid. We stand by our offer of the October 2008 dates. Everybody is ready to move on. It is time to get real and get on with the next event, which we believe should be in October 2008."

Says Alinghi’s Lucien Masmejan, as reported by TheDailySail.com, “GGYC confirmed that it has already started building its boat for the America’s Cup Match and stated that SNG has time to build a boat by October 2008 but should this not be possible that SNG should compete in an existing boat. This clearly is an extension of the GGYC’s strategy to win the America’s Cup at all costs as it would guarantee an absurdly miss-matched race – precisely the opposite of the racing that we have come to expect from the America’s Cup."

While Alinghi has recently made public their sentiment that “it’s time to settle this on the water,” Lucien Masmejan’s next series of statements appears as if the syndicate is potentially back pedaling from this stance:

"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.”

While all teams, sailors, and fans of the America’s Cup are hopeful that the courtroom wrangling will soon give way to starting-line drama’s, Team New Zealand’s Grant Dalton, who is also suing Alinghi, had different thoughts on the matter, arguing that forfeiture — an America’s Cup first, should it come to pass — is likely Alinghi’s best option:

“Having admitted that they cannot be ready by October, we believe that Alinghi should forfeit right now, allowing BMW Oracle and the other challengers to get the America’s Cup back on track and minimizing challengers’ continuing financial hardship that they created,” said Dalton, as first reported by TheDailySail.com “BMW Oracle has said all along its preference is for a conventional, multi-challenge America’s Cup regatta and has consistently worked to achieve this outcome. We believe that given the opportunity, BMW Oracle would be only too willing to work with the America’s Cup community as a whole to restore the Cup’s standing to what it was at the conclusion of the last America’s Cup. Regattas could be held in Valencia this summer sailing the 2007 Cup yachts; next year the new 90ft [monohull] yachts could be racing and a multi-challenge America’s Cup could be held in Valencia in 2010. All it would take is for Alinghi to do the right thing and help recreate a positive environment and let everyone get on with it.”

Posted: March 26, 2008

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