Déjà Vu

I’m getting that 1987 feeling all over again. In the summer of that year there were syndicate heads queuing at the docks to hire sailors at the 12 Meter Worlds in Porto Cervo. Just months later it was all so much smoke as the Mercury Bay Challenge got underway and events inexorably slid into the hands of the lawyers and took on a momentum of their own.

Back in 2007, the latest round of legal bickering has taken the whole thing to a new level and my own interest is sitting right on the edge here… Can I be bothered to sift through this to figure out what’s going on? Just about...

To recap – the New York State Supreme Court, in the person of Justice Herman Cahn, previously decided that the Club Nautico Espanol de Vela (CNEV) was not a valid Challenger of Record, and that they should be replaced by the club that brought the legal challenge – Oracle’s Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC).

Contrary to the impression I may have given you at the end of the last post, it seems that we have subsequently been waiting for the good judge to deliver an order which would tell us all where and when the next America’s Cup would be held. The GGYC were pushing for a match at the end of next summer, while Alinghi’s yacht club, the Société Nautique de Genève (SNG), were trying to get it put back to July 2009 - all of which you can find explained with great clarity and some detail by Cory Friedman, in his Scuttlebutt stories Part 10 and Part 11.

SNG have now got themselves some shiny new laywers, and they have gone into battle on as many fronts as they can open. They have challenged the court’s authority to decide that GGYC is in fact the valid Challenger of Record, as well as the court’s authority to decide when and where the America’s Cup match will be held. Justice Cahn seems to have agreed with some or all of these points, and to settle them has called a new hearing for the 14th January.

So the court order will not be issued prior to this – and even when it is, there is still a 30 day window for either CNEV or SNG to challenge the order and appeal. There is plenty of evidence that either CNEV or SNG, or even both clubs plan to appeal – and that would kick the whole thing into the long grass for er… maybe not that long. Or perhaps longer. Who knows? Who cares?

We don’t even know what we don’t know until sometime in late January or early February. But from the way it’s shaping up, SNG want a Deed of Gift match in catamarans, but they don’t want it till 2009 – and it appears that they have plenty of tools to delay it until then. And all that despite the fact their PR people are still saying they won't appeal...

As to the negotiations over longer term changes to the Deed of Gift that Bertarelli started up last week (covered in the last post, whose title End Game now stares mockingly back at me), they appear to be going on somewhere, and I would point you back to Cory’s Scuttlebutt story - if you didn’t read it all the first time – for an analysis of that issue. Suffice to say here that there are serious issues to be overcome for any change to take place.

Hard to credit then, but new challenges are still emerging – there’s another from Spain – just like buses, nothing for ages, then two or three all at once. This one is called Decision Challenge, and comes out of the Reial Club Maritim de Barcelona and Real Club Nautico de Madrid – do these people read the newspapers?

Based on the 1987 experience, now is a very good time to pull your horns in, go and do something else and come back when the lawyers have exhausted their armory and the whole thing once again involves some sailing. Volvo Ocean Race anyone? Former GBR Challenge and Plus 39 sailor Ian Walker certainly thinks so, he was announced as skipper of the Irish Green Team this week.


Mark Chisnell ©