Turning the Gas Up...

If anyone thought that the presence in Copenhagen, Denmark (at the Farr 40 Worlds) of major players from both sides of the Alinghi v Oracle divide meant an opportunity for negotiation and conciliation, they will have to think again. This piece from Stuart Alexander's fine blogspot...

'By the way, there has already been an angry confrontation in the not so wonderful city of Copenhagen. It has been cold and miserable for the Farr 40 worlds, but some heat was injected from outside when Ernesto Bertarelli’s Alinghi asked that the chairman of the jury, Tom Ehman, should step down. As Ehman is at the centre of the litigation by GGYC, at the behest of BMW Oracle’s Larry Ellison, Alinghi, as a competitor, felt there could be some conflict of interest.

Ehman did not step down, doubtless because he thought that his four co-jurors would never allow themselves to be manipulated in what could be seen as vindictive behavour. But Bertarelli’s skipper, Brad Butterworth, is incensed and has written to the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) with a formal complaint.'

Time for another weary sigh?

I should also point you in the direction of a Q&A with America’s Cup Management's (ACM) Chief Operating Officer, Michel Hodara in the Scuttlebutt for 31st August.

'Q: By the defender participating in the challenger trials (per the Protocol of the 33rd event), is it not possible that the defender may influence the ultimate outcome of the challenger trials? Given that the threat of elimination does not exist for the defender, it would seem conceivable that the defender may choose to lose to a lesser team, which might help this team advance past a stronger challenger that could ultimately pose a problem for the defender in the America's Cup. At the very least, the participation of the defender does open the door for this type of concern.'

'MH: In order to reduce costs, it has been decided to impose to sail only one boat at a time. Therefore, it was reasonable that the Defender could take part in the Challenger series, otherwise, the Defender would have no opportunity to race an opponent while the challengers raced in the Challenger Series.'

Which is as fine a job of not answering the question as I've heard from any politician in recent years. If I'd paid more attention in my freshman Logic 101 classes (was it my fault they were scheduled at siesta time?) I could probably give you the technical name for this kind of flawed argument. But suffice to point out that perhaps the conclusion should be that the problem is with the one boat rule - since it's clearly not reasonable that the Defender can have an impact on the outcome of the Challenger trials, as Michel Hodara's answer seems to accept.


Mark Chisnell ©

Taking it Seriously...

After Friday's post I got another Kiwi tip-off about an interesting interview with Michel Hodara, the CEO of America's Cup Management (ACM), on BYM News. And he says ACM are taking the GGYC court challenge seriously. This is what Hodara had to say about the court action:

'Yes, Golden Gate omitted a very important date from the Media Backgrounder that was issued a few days ago and has created a wrong impression of what happened on August 22nd. The date it failed to mention, under the heading "2007 Timeline" was August 17.

'Although the GGYC filed suit in the Supreme Court for the State of New York, on July 20, Société Nautique de Genève (SNG) was not served with the papers until August 17. The response to those papers was scheduled to be answered by mid-September and SNG was working on responding by then. However, just 5 days later, GGYC went into court and asked for the time scale to be accelerated. They want it accelerated for the original suit and they also want to know from SNG the racing rules and the location for the multihull challenge they claim for.

'All that happened in court, on August 22, was that the court set a date for hearing whether there is reason to accelerate things. SNG has to reply by September 5 and the hearing will be on September 10. This was not a victory for GGYC, as the impression has been given. Nothing was decided, the court has not taken any position whatsoever, it has just set a date for a hearing and nobody knows what will happen on the date. The court may agree to the request to accelerate, or it may not.'

So, that sets me straight about whether or not ACM are up for this...

I'd urge you to read the whole interview as this is a more thoughtful and temperate response to the current circumstances than the statement ACM put out in response to the court order - which is a pity. In my very first blog on the new Protocol for the 33rd Cup I was willing to give ACM the benefit of the doubt over what appeared to be a very one-sided document. Since then, public opinion seems to have largely hardened against ACM, and backed the Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC)/Oracle challenge to the Protocol. Not least because ACM have refused to recognise that people have legitimate concerns with the document, or even explain their reasons for the controversial clauses - perhaps Mr Hodara should be given the stage more often. Now, if he could just come up with a conciliatory tone and a willingness to negotiate, we might be getting somewhere.

Just one point about the rest of the interview - Hodara talks about the verticality of football as being an aspiration for the America's Cup. Meaning that there are people interested in football from all stratas of society. But football's verticality exists because every single one of the six billion or so punters on this planet has the opportunity to kick a football/tennis ball/tin can around a pitch/street/beach and knows what it means and what it takes to good, bad or indifferent at it.

The same cannot be said of sailing - and that truth will not be changed by bringing mainstream sponsors into the America's Cup, it will be changed by giving kids everywhere and in all walks of life a chance to experience sailing. And I don't see too many people in the Cup doing much about fixing that...


Mark Chisnell ©