Wake Up Call

So there were a couple of developments in the America’s Cup this week, neither of which had much to do with yacht racing. The Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) announced that the Supreme Court of the State of New York had granted them an order, ‘requiring the Société Nautique de Genève (SNG) to promptly answer a request to speed up the legal process for resolving its proposed new rules for defending the next America’s Cup.’

You can read the full text of the statement from the GGYC here, but as far as I can see, this is a wake up call for Alinghi. The court is telling them to take the GGYC challenge seriously, and that they have to turn up in New York and explain themselves.

The response from SNG/Alinghi came hot on the heels of the court order, with a statement they issued to the media. I’ll have to give you this one in full, as I can’t find it on any ACM/Alinghi site to link to…


Response to official filing of Legal Proceedings by Golden Gate Yacht Club 23 August 2007

The Société Nautique de Genève, Alinghi and America’s Cup Management are very disappointed that BMW Oracle Racing, through the Golden Gate Yacht Club, has followed through with its threat and officially filed legal proceedings in the New York Courts.

“ACM in good faith has proposed a protocol intended to advance the sport of America’s Cup sailing. Far from being an attempt to control everything, the new protocol has been written to make the 33rd America’s Cup even better: a new class of boat which brings the technology to state-of-the-art, exciting racing and an even higher profile and more professional event which befits the premier competition in sailing, “ said Michel Bonnefous, President ACM.

“Our vision is to make the America’s Cup in 2009 comparable with the best sporting events in the World. This vision is shared by many Challengers from around the world, four of whom have now formally entered the competition, with others about to do so.

“Larry Ellison is holding the Cup to ransom for competitive gain by attempting to disrupt the preparations of the teams from Switzerland, Spain, South Africa, Great Britain and New Zealand, as well as many others who have notified of their intention to enter the competition shortly.”

“Ellison lost on the water in 2003 and in 2007, failing to secure a match for the America’s Cup,” said Brad Butterworth, Skipper, Alinghi, “He is now pretending to be the good guy, representing the interests of all stakeholders, whereas in reality they have gone to court to force an earlier private match on their terms without the involvement of other competitors.”

“While their legal teams are busy destabilising the 33rd Cup and the preparations of the existing challengers, they are simultaneously snapping up sailors left, right and centre. These underhand tactics make it particularly hard for the smaller teams who rely on sponsorship, which is very hard to secure under these circumstances, and shows disregard for all the legitimate competitors.'

The cat-o-meter seems to be swinging inexorably towards a race in twin-hulled ninety footers next year. I was a bit surprised to see Brad continuing to be so forthright, given that his long-time compadre Russell Coutts is on the other side of the fence at GGYC/Oracle. Perhaps this prior relationship could have opened a channel of communication and hence to negotiation. But then again, Bertarelli doesn't have much of a record for listening to his sailing lieutenants when it comes to the big issues (as Russell discovered just prior to his departure from the team) and Brad figures he's already chosen his horse...

A couple of other points. The nice man at the Valencia Sailing blog has figured out how to follow the court case blow by blow. Head to the New York State Unified Court System website at this address:


(I haven’t created a link for you, as it tells you on page one of the website not to do so without specific permission from the court. I figured that this permission could take a while to get, and if there’s one authority I’m not about to mess with, it’s the New York State court system.)

Once you get there, you have to fill in the question at the bottom of the page, and that will take you to a search facility where you can enter the GGYC’s case index number: 602446/2007. If you do so, you’ll discover that the next hearing is on the 10th September at 2pm, and that SNG have not yet listed any legal representation - which does kind of indicate that they've been ignoring the whole thing and hoping it will go away.... It won't.

In the meantime, several other potential Challengers continue to press ahead. Team Origin will be presenting their team to the public at the Southampton Boat Show at 11pm on Friday 14th September. And I can’t help thinking that John Kostecki’s resignation from the Volvo Ocean Race’s Ericsson Team has something to do with an alternative offer of employment from an America’s Cup team.

On the one hand, it doesn’t do the Volvo any good to be losing marque names like Kostecki from the event. But on the other, with Kostecki returning with another early starting campaign, after blitzing the fleet in illbruck in 2001-02, it did feel like he’d already won it. His absence opens things out a little, although Ericsson still have a formidable advantage in resource and time.

Richard Gladwell at sail-world.com reckons that the challengers can press on regardless, as the outcome of the court action is completely neutral to them – because both Alinghi and Oracle intend to hold a Cup in 2009 in Valencia, and in 90 footers. But I thought Oracle had backed the Mascalzone proposals which state that the next Cup should use the V5 rule (from 2007), while planning a new boat for the following event. The type of boat is pretty fundamental to a Cup team's preparations, and it would seem that this would limit the amount of work anyone can do.

Richard also assumes that all the court action can be completed with a clear outcome and no outstanding appeals in time for a 2009 event. But GGYC reckon we could have a legal resolution as early as October this year, which would be before the 90 footer rule has even been released by Alinghi. And so, for a while at least, most challenging teams can be pushing ahead with planning and signing personnel, in the hope that by the time they really need to start doing something, things will be clearer.

Meanwhile, whatever happens, ACM/Alinghi are covering themselves - there’s a clause in the Notice of Entry on the event website that states:

“The [ Club ] and the [ Representative – syndicate ] each understand that AC Management and SNG cannot be responsible for any losses incurred by [ Club ] and/or [ Representative – syndicate ] as a result from GGYC's actions.”

And finally, I couldn’t not mention the awesome performance from Skandia Team GBR at the Pre-Olympic event in Qingdao. The breeze finally turned up for both the medal race days (so it is possible to get wind in Qingdao) and the Brits waltzed off with five golds (Bryony Shaw, RS:X; Ben Ainslie, Finn; Stevie Morrison/Ben Rhodes, 49er; Paul Goodison, Laser; Sarah Ayton/Sarah Webb/Pippa Wilson, Yngling) and a silver (Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield, 470). It would be staggering to see it repeated next year, but you never know…


Mark Chisnell ©