It All Kicks Off…

I had barely completed yesterday’s post – largely an exercise in giving Alinghi the benefit of the doubt over their new America’s Cup Protocol – when it was made almost entirely redundant by the Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC).

Larry Ellison’s Challenging club for his Oracle Racing team aren’t giving anyone the benefit of anything. They don’t like the way things are shaping up for the 33rd America’s Cup, and they’ve posted a further Challenge to Alinghi’s yacht club, the Société Nautique Genève (SNG).

It claims that the Spanish Challenge that Alinghi accepted as Challenger of Record is invalid, on the grounds that the Club Nautico Espanol de Vela (CNEV) is not a bona fide yacht club, because it’s never held an annual regatta on an arm of the sea, as required by the Deed of Gift.

More pertinently, I suspect, GGYC also claim that CNEV have carried out none of their duties to determine the conditions of the America’s Cup Match, but simply rolled over and accepted what Alinghi put on the table. The CNEV replied almost immediately, saying that nothing in the Deed of Gift states that their annual regatta must have already taken place when they challenge, and that their event will be held this month in Santander.

Nevertheless, the GGYC reckon that theirs is now the first valid challenge, and they want to negotiate a Protocol along the lines of the 32nd America’s Cup. Should Alinghi fail to come to the table, then as far as the GGYC are concerned, the 33rd Match will take place under the conditions specified by the Deed of Gift should mutual consent not be possible. To that end, they’ve informed SNG that they’ll be turning up in ten months time with (presumably) a catamaran 90 foot long, 90 foot wide, with 20 foot deep centreboards. Oh, and its owner is Oracle Racing, Inc.

A couple of points – I don't think Oracle/GGYC expect the next Cup to be raced in the 90 foot multihull. Their challenge clearly states that they want something along the lines of the 32nd Cup, and they want to negotiate that with Alinghi. Ellison’s position on the next Cup has always been thought to be a two year cycle, in roughly the same boats. The GGYC’s Challenge is all about taking Alinghi down a peg or two, and getting a Protocol with a level playing field. As I said in yesterday’s post, there’s a lot of uncertainty in the current Protocol - if Alinghi resolve all that uncertainty in their favour, it would lead to a very one-sided affair.

The big question is whether or not GGYC can make their claim that the CNEV Challenge is invalid, stick in a court (I’ll see your five lawyers, and raise you ten…). Or at least, will it give them enough leverage to negotiate a more reasonable Protocol out of Alinghi? Only time and the lawyers will tell us that. Normal service has been resumed. Meanwhile, potential Challengers are left hanging around street corners, whistling for it, while sponsors melt away and crew sign up for the Volvo Ocean Race. Alinghi produced a fantastic 32nd America's Cup, but if they handle this badly, they'll flush that memory faster than you can say New York Court of Appeal.

One final word – where’s the BOB when you need it? Tom shut up shop just in time, did he know he was going to be too busy flying to Geneva…?!

Mark Chisnell ©