Over It…

A fair bit of water has flowed past the becalmed America’s Cup since my last post, a few weeks back. Alinghi's skipper Brad Butterworth had a go at Team New Zealand's Grant Dalton, but Dalts refused to bite.

Alinghi’s head honcho, Ernesto Bertarelli, went to Valencia looking to cut a deal for the venue of the 2009 America’s Cup match, even though Justice Cahn of the New York State Supreme Court (in whose hands the matter rests) has still to decide the date.

BMW Oracle announced officially what we’ve all known for a long time - that they are building a boat for the Deed of Gift match. And Alinghi followed up with an announcement that it’s going to take fifteen months to build their boat for a race that Justice Cahn may well schedule for this October. Perhaps they started ten months ago, and perhaps they didn't...

There was another predictable legal volte-face from Alinghi, when they returned to the courts in their efforts to stave off the Deed of Gift race until they have a boat ready for it – Noah should be so lucky as to have had recourse to the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division.

Fortunately, the inestimable Cory Friedman was there to make sense of it all in Part 21 and Part 22 of his Scuttlebutt oeuvre. Or not, depending on how you good you are at following tediously complex legal cases. I think his conclusion was that it's about to start raining on Alinghi's parade, and they need a little more Old Testament sense of urgency when it comes to boat building.

To all of which, my response was… yeah, well, yada, yada, whatever…

So it’s been hard to summon the enthusiasm to write something that might be worth reading. But eventually, guilt and/or a misguided protestant work ethic kicked in and I sat down to have a quick scout around the usual suspects on the interweb, to see if there was anything I'd missed. But when I turned up at the ever reliable Mariantic, I found this…

Mariantic is taking a break. Thanks for your support. More later.

I thought… maybe I’m not the only one with Cup fatigue.

And then I thought… what a great idea.

Enough already.

I have no fear for the future of the Cup. George Schuyler’s Deed of Gift and the desires that it inspires have always proven to be bigger than the shabby behaviour (and there’s a long, long history of it) that those very same desires can provoke. It’s the nature of the thing - the peaks of Fremantle’s liquid Himalayas were followed by the troughs in the swells of San Diego's 1988 mismatch - boom and bust, recession and bubble…

The Cup will get back on the water and put this shambles behind it, and that’ll be a good time to start taking an interest again. But I don’t need to follow every memo, motion, argument, appeal, order, stay, toll and cross-motion in the meantime, not least because Cory Friedman is doing a vastly superior job of it.

But also because I can see a whole lot more golf in that particular hole - given the attitude of the protagonists - and frankly, I’d rather write about sail boat racing, or travel, or just about anything other than two or three (four, five?) more years of arcane legal procedures in a New York court, accompanied by Alice in Wonderland press releases and briefly interrupted by three days of (albeit spectacular) but very one sided yacht racing.

So this blog will be back with a new brief, just as soon as I’ve figured it out. And if nothing inspires before then, the Volvo Ocean Race is coming up at the end of the northern summer, and that is going to be worth watching.

In the meantime, so long, and thanks for all the fish.


Mark Chisnell ©

Another Busy Week Going Nowhere…

Everyone who had no idea what a Tolling Agreement was until this week raise their hands. I guess that’s most of us. Since we left our sailing soap opera with a post last Friday, Tolling Agreements have gone from a dinky little new phrase to chuck around in the pub, to being central to any likely settlement of the future of the America’s Cup.

A Tolling Agreement, it turns out (I’ve been reading Cory Friedman Part 19…), is the legal way of stopping the clock on an event (building a nuclear plant, flooding a valley to build a hydro-electric dam, running the America’s Cup… all the normal stuff) while the legal action proceeds to a conclusion. Such an agreement was suggested by Justice Cahn way back in September last year, at the first hearing in the New York State Supreme Court. Both the Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) and the Societe Nautique de Geneve (SNG) were in general agreement on the idea at the time – GGYC apparently even did the subsequent paperwork and signed an offer that... SNG rejected. So nothing exists in print, and as we all know, a verbal agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

Or maybe not…

The parties met before Justice Cahn on Wednesday, April 2nd, to try and settle the matter of the date of the 33rd America’s Cup match. And the account of that hearing forms Part 20 of Cory Friedman’s opus (odds on Cory laying down Part 60 around this time next year?). It does seem from reading this that GGYC have turned the straight-forward absence of a tolling agreement into a dog’s dinner of an argument about why the match should be in October 2008. The only motive for this that I can think of - rather than going for the jugular and insisting on a match according to the original challenge dates of July 2008 - is that they won’t be ready by then either. As to the rest of what went on at the hearing… Read Friedman’s account.

At the end of it all, Justice Cahn decided that he couldn’t decide at the hearing, and I’m not surprised, given the plethora of arguments and rationales for the various dates/hemispheres. There’s a rumour going round that he will issue a judgement in a week or two, but whether that gets us any closer to the 33rd America’s Cup (never mind the 34th) remains to be seen. There is still plenty of legal golf left in this hole. SNG can still drag the whole damn thing down to the Appellate Division although, as in 1988, that may not stop the Defender having to sail a match in the meantime. But the venue of that match, the rules that apply to it, the legality of the Challenger’s boat could all still be the subject of further court action… This is getting old isn't it?

If you want to read the reactions of either Alinghi or GGYC/BMW Oracle to all this, click on the links. But frankly, you’ve got better things to do, like... oh, you know... going sailing?

Meanwhile, the sailing team training that we reported on last week proceeded less than smoothly for Alinghi, who managed to flip Alain Gautier’s trimaran, Foncia, over in the Atlantic. The sound of hollow, Schadenfreudean chortling echoed around the world (discreetly - as two of the guys were airlifted ashore to hospital – no serious damage). But Alinghi fronted up with a decent press release (this one is worth reading), in which Ed Baird talked through the capsize, which happened while they were bearing away. Thierry Martinez was there to record the event in glowing colour.

If I were a crueller man, I would have found a picture of Ed standing on the upturned hull of Foncia and captioned it… ISAF Sailor of the Year. Then I’d have found a picture of Rohan Veal going Mach Ten in his foiler Moth and… And you can guess the rest, but it’s a way cheap shot. None of this is Ed's fault. As far as I know.

BMW Oracle Racing were having a more successful time of it, training on Groupama 2 with Franck Cammas. The Groupama website told us that Russell Coutts, John Kostecki and Jimmy Spithill had all been sailing with Cammas' and some of his crew. They kept it upright, and will move onto match racing in 60 foot multihulls next week…

Times are less entertaining for all those other teams that announced their planned participation in America’s Cup XXXIII way back in the halcyon days of last summer. The sound of slamming doors and keys turning can be heard all over Valencia. There are rumours of another round of retrenchment at one of the teams, while United Internet Team Germany shutdown on schedule on the 31st March with the somewhat mixed message that they plan to… ‘continue its previous, trustful and successful work in the 34th America's Cup on a basis of a new protocol / rule’. While simultaneously… ‘The contracts of all team members are discontinued and the base in Valencia will be closed for the time being after March 31 2008.’

This is presumably the death of the circuit of regattas proposed for this summer (in the old version five boats) that the German management had been working hard on. You can draw a couple of conclusions from this: if it doesn’t have official America’s Cup racing stamped on it, sponsors aren’t interested. In which case you can forget all those ideas about telling Alinghi they can keep the trophy and starting up the Louis Vuitton Cup instead. Or maybe this credit crunch thing is making life a little tough for the sponsorship hunters right now. In which case, perhaps it’s good that we’ve got an excuse to keep everyone off the water for a couple of years (decades?) till the good times roll again…

Meanwhile, the sailing teams are sticking together as much as they can, we’ve previously mentioned that the core Team Germany squad will be racing the TP52 Platoon (renamed Platoon powered by Team Germany). And on Wednesday, Valencia Sailing reported a press conference at Desafio Espanol, where they announced that they too would be sailing TP52s, along with a GP42 campaign this year. If there isn't some light at the end of the Cup tunnel soon, where might these teams turn next for some action?

And it seems that on the same day that CNEV’s (remember them, they used to be Desafio's yacht club and the Challenger of Record) lawyer was apparently up before Justice Cahn, Desafio were also announcing that they will now be representing Bilbao’s Real Club Maritimo del Abra. There is a lot more on this if you follow the Valencia Sailing link.

But that’s plenty enough for me…


Mark Chisnell ©

Groundhog Day

Out of court, and straight back into court, sounds familiar, right? Ernesto Bertarelli’s promise to get the America’s Cup show back on the water turned out to be about as reliable as England’s so-called ‘golden generation’ were on Wednesday night… No, sorry, that’s not a good metaphor; the over-paid, over-rated bling merchants are reliably awful.

The week started with another exchange of volleys in the press release/letter war. You may recall that when we left things just over a week ago the warring factions were primarily engaged in a skirmish over the date of the Cup match – July 2008 (as specified in the Golden Gate Yacht Club’s (GGYC) original Deed of Gift Challenge), October 2008 (the date GGYC say they subsequently agreed to with Societe Nautique de Geneve (SNG) last November) and July 2009 (the date that SNG are claiming for the match).

After that story was posted, things really livened up, with a flurry of letters, claims and counter-claims. There might have been a time when I’d have sifted through these, and summarized each missive with a link… though I prefer to think not. Anyway, now I have a life. If you don’t, you can find them all in the usual places – the GGYC and Alinghi websites.

When you stick it on high heat for a while, all these words boil down to the usual: both sides blame each other for the current impasse, and neither will shift from their position.

They eventually got the opportunity to tell each other this in person, with a meeting on Wednesday 26th March in Geneva. The outcome was soooo predictable… Alinghi’s press release was entitled - SNG frustrated with meeting outcome. Oh really? I never would have guessed. GGYC were more guarded, but it made no difference. Alinghi followed up in short order with an announcement that they were returning to Justice Cahn and the New York State Supreme court for a decision on the date of the Deed of Gift Match. Alinghi posted their letter to Justice Cahn for us all to read, and GGYC followed up with their own legal response.

Again, cutting to the chase, Alinghi’s case is all about the idea that the 10-month notice period stipulated in the Deed of Gift is suspended (or 'tolled' as Alinghi call it) by the legal action – as they claim GGYC have already agreed to, and GGYC vehemently deny (this is a good BYM News interview with Tom Ehman). I could harp on about this legal stuff, but frankly, Cory Friedman will do a better job on Scuttlebutt when he posts his latest missive on the opposing arguments on Monday 31st March…

Meanwhile, the good Justice (who would be well on the way to winning ISAF’s World Sailor of the Year if it wasn’t for the fact that our august governing body have given every appearance of siding with Alinghi) hasn’t wasted any time, and he’s set a date for the court hearing of Wednesday April 2nd - after which, we can all tune our sets to stand-by again (or switch them off, if you’re carbon neutrally inclined) until Justice Cahn pronounces.

Then what happens…?

My money has it that the court is more likely to set a date of July 2008 than July 2009 and if that happens SNG/Alinghi are in a whole world of hurt. Expect the toys to come hurtling out of the pram and Alinghi to either return the whole thing to the court with an appeal, or less likely but more entertainingly, try something like the forfeit/rechallenge strategy I outlined in the last post.

The October 2008 date is the more interesting, as Alinghi could make this one – whatever they may claim. They have time to build a boat even if they start now, never mind if, as Tom Ehman points out in the above interview and one of the GGYC’s many press releases of the last week, they started back in December ’07 (they have signed up Alain Gautier for multi-hull training).

So this one could go either way, SNG can still play the venue card – they get to decide whether the race is in 5 knots off the Island of Capri, or 25 knots of the island of Oahu (the word on the Valencian street is that the Oracle camp is fully packed and containerised and ready to go anywhere in the world). Not to mention that SNG/Alinghi can choose the rules (How about... no boat shall be penalized for a collision... take that one and ram it into your lightweight multi-hull, Larry). Alinghi might just decide that they really aren’t getting any joy from the court, and return to what they’ve demonstrated they are good at – winning tough yacht races. Or they might not.

And if it’s July 2009, I don’t think we’ll be hearing much from Alinghi except for the crowing. And although GGYC might make a fuss about being hard done by, if the rules and venue are something they can live with, I suspect they will also accept the date. They still have a headstart, and there’s nothing to stop them maintaining it by building a second multi-hull, based on the lessons they learn from the first. In fact, given that Alinghi’s Protocol limitations on two-boat testing won’t be applying to this regatta, they could conceivably crank up a full two boat programme between now and then, and wouldn’t that be fun to be a part of…

The other possibility is that Alinghi swaps horses mid-race and offers a multi-challenge event for 2011 (or even 2009) under the compromise Protocol (proposed by GGYC and backed by the other challengers) that they, SNG/Alinghi, had previously turned down last autumn. This one would really put the cat amongst the pigeons back at Oracle Towers.

Whatever their motives when they issued their Deed of Gift challenge back in July last year, I doubt that Oracle believed that Alinghi would so comprehensively sail themselves downwind into a narrow creek with a square rigger. But they have, and right now, Oracle have a hand on the prize. They are one court judgement away from going into a Cup match with a serious jump on their opponents. Would you give that up if you had the opportunity – even if, when you started out, you just wanted a fairer deal for the Challengers in a multi-team event? I didn’t think so… but that call ain't gonna make you look good.

And finally, there’s a peach of an article by Vincenzo Onorato on the Mascalzone Latino website, where Vincenzo gives it to Alinghi with both barrels, loaded with number ten shot (you don’t want to break the glass - I’ve been reading No Country for Old Men).

The story finishes by looking forward to a day where the 33rd Match is all over, and Oracle have won – clearly a glass-half-full kind of guy - but the ideas are rock solid:

If possible, get Louis Vuitton back on board – they define the event, as much as the name America’s Cup, and their presence will reassure other sponsors.

Use the old boats and limit new hull builds to one – there’s a need to cut costs at a time when all the teams are struggling for sponsors and cash. (And personally, I doubt the credit crunch/US recession is going to improve matters for anyone anytime soon.)

Race as soon as possible – like, you know, 2009.

You can’t argue with any of that – roll on the day…

And don’t worry, Vincenzo, we haven’t forgotten why this all kicked off in the first place.


Mark Chisnell ©

A DoG fight between CaTs…

It’s been sliding this way for a while, but events in the last couple of weeks confirm that the America’s Cup has slipped off the edge into a looking glass world where nothing is as it seems, or as anyone says it is…

Exhibit 1

Posted on the Alinghi website, where Tom Schnackenberg gave his views on the 90’ long barge that he (apparently) believes Oracle will be using in the Deed of Gift challenge. We talked in the last post about Alinghi’s latest legal contention to the New York State Supreme Court that the Golden Gate Yacht Club’s (GGYC) challenge is invalid. The Société Nautique de Genève (SNG)/Alinghi argument is that an error on the GGYC boat certificate forces the club to turn up with a 90 foot wide mono-hull, and that the boat would be so unseaworthy as to be unfit for the race course, thus invalidating Oracle’s challenge. Or something like that. Next thing we know, Schnackenburg appears on the Alinghi website discussing how little Rolf Vrolijk (Alinghi’s head designer) knows about the sailing barges of his Dutch homeland, and how this puts Alinghi at a disadvantage.

It’s a joke, Jim, but not as we know it.

Exhibit 2

Posted on the BYM website, a story all about how the word ‘keel yacht’ can’t be applied to a multi-hull, despite the arguments of the GGYC, posted on their website. At least, I think that’s what it’s about as my eyes started to glaze over half way down…

Then came the day in court - January 14th you will recall was the day that Justice Cahn was going to make the order from the November decision in Oracle’s favour, which would give us a date for the next America’s Cup - a race between Oracle and Alinghi under the basic definitions of the Deed of Gift. A proper DoG fight. Or is it a cat fight? I know, it’s a dog fight between cats – as I said, it’s a looking glass world.

Not much happened in court, or rather a lot happened, but it got us no closer to a decision or a date for the match.

Exhibit 3

Posted on the GGYC website - their take on the court proceedings - they were happy that the Judge would soon sign an order to enforce the November decision and were pleased with the day.

Exhibit 4

Posted on the Alinghi website - their take on the court proceedings - they were happy that Justice Cahn had decided not to issue an order and were pleased with the day.

If there is any chance of sense on this matter, it resides in the writing of Cory Friedman, who continues to follow the case affidavit by memo of law for Scuttlebutt, with Part 12 posted before the January 14th court date. So far, Friedman’s writings on the matter have been a model of clarity and precision, even for us legal laymen. But such are the arcane details of this case that even he is now struggling to make it seem straightforward. But, on your behalf, I persisted with stuff like…

‘On or after the settlement date, now effectively January 14, 2008, Justice Cahn will enter an Order. Until he does so, there is no order to affect. Indeed CPLR 2221(d)(3) mandates that a motion to reargue “shall” [mandatory] be made within 30 days after the order in question is entered and served with notice of entry.’

Now, you would think that the issuing of an order is a kind of digital, one or zero, issued or not-issued sort of event. But no, it looks like we're in a grey, statistical world of order issuing a la Schrödinger's cat, with the state of the order depending on some quantum mechanical uncertainty - which is doubtless only right and proper in this looking glass Cup.

Anyway, essentially Friedman dismisses the SNG/Alinghi case in Part 12, not least because Hamish Ross (Alinghi’s general counsel) previously swore to the court, (supported by Fred Meyer, SNG Vice commodore) that the 90 by 90 foot boat in GGYC’s challenge could only be a multi-hull. So it’s tough for them to turn around now and say it sounds like an unseaworthy mono-hull. Friedman states, if this was a trial, counsel’s next question would be, ‘Were you lying then, or are you lying now?’

It makes the whole ‘keel yacht’ (or bargegate, if you like) issue moot, and Friedman reaches the conclusion – as this blog has previously - that the whole thing is just about delaying the sailing part of the game until Alinghi can catch up with Oracle’s headstart on multi-hull design.

Remember how one of the primary reasons this whole thing kicked off in the first place was because Alinghi had introduced a new boat for the next Cup, without any prior discussion with the Challengers, and was perceived to have got an advantage in the design race by doing so?

What goes around, comes around, even in the looking glass world.

Friedman then went to court to watch events on January 14th, and came back and posted Part 13 for us afterwards. And yes, the number does seem significant, as things have moved onto another plane of complexity, with different issues now before the court. But as I understand it, it works like this…

The issue of whether GGYC is a proper challenger (based on SNG’s arguments about the invalid boat certificate – bargegate – and others) will be heard on the 23rd January.

Then, if GGYC is still the challenger after that hearing (i.e. SNG lose on the 23rd), the court hearing to sort out the order pending from the November decision in GGYC’s favour (which should tell us when the Cup match will be) will be held on the 28th January.

After that, whatever the order says, SNG will appeal it anyway, and the whole thing gets carted off to the Appellate Division, where we all 'return to go' and the only people who 'collect £200' (or the equivalent) are the lawyers, anyone still on a salary at Oracle and Alinghi, and those who scored a retainer from any of the challenging teams that still have the money to pay them.

In the meantime, Alinghi get to work on sailing cats, while officialdom in Valencia is losing patience with the whole affair (much like the rest of us) and want their port back. Given that no teams, except Oracle and Alinghi, are likely to be sailing out of their bases in the short to medium term this seems entirely reasonable.

And finally (which seems appropriate in the week that News at Ten returned to British tv screens), it appears that Barry Ostrager, SNG’s new lead counsel, was… ‘lead trial counsel for Swiss Re in the highly publicized insurance coverage dispute involving the World Trade Center tragedy, which resulted in a unanimous jury verdict in favor of Swiss Re.’

So the man that litigated and won the insurance claims from 9/11 is now spending his (doubtless incredibly expensive) time, sorting out a sailboat race…

It’s a looking glass world.

But I’ll leave you with the positive note that Friedman strikes in his final ‘graf, after pointing out that Ostrager doesn’t believe the case should be in court, and knows the kind of top class mediator’s that might just bring Bertarelli and Ellison to a resolution…

‘A change of counsel can often have a positive effect on a case. Picking up the phone is a major change. Coming in after a loss on summary judgment, new counsel has to be candid with the client about how deep the hole they are in really is, if for no reason other than self-preservation. New counsel is also free from blame for the existing situation. New counsel is thus in a much better position to advocate for a reasonable approach to settlement. Of course, first he or she has to fight like hell to claw back into the race and bank some credibility with the client. Having bested Herb Wachtell in the mammoth World Trade Center Insurance Litigation, Barry Ostrager had the clout to get this gig and has the skills and resources to litigate for a long time, if he can convince the Appellate Division to grant him a stay of the order Justice Cahn will enter. That is not by any means a gimme. He also has the clout to get it resolved. The jury is out and we shall see how it unfolds.’

We can only live in hope. And if not hope, then that bit about Ostrager being able to litigate for a long time means it might be time to start looking for something else to write about...


Mark Chisnell ©

The Fur Flies

Back from the surf trip after a double-overhead session at Harlyn Bay yesterday...

And the fall-out continues to land in the America’s Cup, following the decision by Justice Cahn of the New York Supreme Court to remove Club Nautico Espanol de Vela (CNEV) as Challenger of Record, and replace them with the Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) and Oracle Racing.

Next out of the blocks was Desafio Espanol, with a statement posted on the Valencia Sailing blogspot saying that they challenged through CNEV in good faith, having consulted with renowned legal advisers, and only ever wanted the best for the sport of sailing, Valencia and Spain… yada, yada, yada. Sigh.

Bruno Troublé broke the silence that he has maintained since Louis Vuitton pulled out of their quarter century of America’s Cup sponsorship. He penned a piece for Scuttlebutt, which pretty much blasted everything to do with the 33rd iteration that America’s Cup Management (ACM) had been trying to organize…

‘I am shocked to see the defender sailing WITH the challengers (no more of this great mystery at the start of the first final race) and at ACM naming the judges, umpires, and committees with no reference to ISAF...

'I am furious to see the 90-foot box rule. Anyone involved in the America’s Cup knows that the best match racing boats do NOT accelerate from 10 to 20 knots when luffing 10 degrees downwind. They are STUCK in the water the same way the 12s and the IACC were. Do not confuse these fast-accelerating sleds with the impressive looking J’s boats, as the defender has stated.’

Over at Team New Zealand, Grant Dalton reckoned the court judgement was ‘the outcome he was waiting for…’ according to an article in the New Zealand Herald. Tim Jeffrey then broke a story in the Daily Telegraph that Dalton and Team New Zealand had demanded compensation from Alinghi and Ernesto Bertarelli for the postponement of the America's Cup. The article reckoned, ‘Dalton's estimate of losses to his Kiwi team of £12 million if the America's Cup is put back to 2010, and £17 million if it is 2011…’

Sail-World subsequently confirmed the story with a statement from Dalton...

'The report in the Telegraph is substantially true.

'Before Emirates Team New Zealand entered the 2009 America’s Cup we sought from Ernesto Bertarelli the security of a side agreement that the event would indeed be held in 2009.

'Bertarelli was adamant the Cup regatta would go ahead as scheduled and entered into a binding agreement on July 25 2007.

'Emirates Team New Zealand entered into the agreement in good faith. The contract provided the assurance we needed to plan for 2009. For Ernesto Bertarelli the agreement with Emirates Team New Zealand ensured another entry for 2009.

'On November 22 2007 AC Management announced that the America’s Cup had been postponed.

'All challengers including Oracle are still adamant they want an event in 2009. This can be achieved easily now as a result of the New York Supreme court decision in favour of Oracle. The decision allows for a mutually agreed document as the basis of the next America’s Cup.

'Such a document has already been formulated between Oracle and the challengers.

'None of the nine points in this document can be construed as onerous for Alinghi.

'As far as Emirates Team New Zealand is concerned the agreement entered into is a simple contract. Therefore we are surprised that Alinghi has seen fit to put this letter in the public domain.'

Meanwhile, BYM News is running a story that backs up the notion that GGYC/Oracle are working hard towards a 2009 Cup, with leaked letters coming from Tom Ehman and Russell Coutts to interested parties – they have links to the letters and the story here which outlines Oracle's efforts to get Alinghi and Bertarelli to the table to sort out the next event.

But so far, there’s been a deafening silence from the Swiss, and the Detroit Free Press is quoting Tom Ehman (Oracle’s spokesman) as saying that Brad Butterworth didn’t show up for a meeting with Russell on Friday. A subsequent phone call to Alinghi by the paper has been met with the response that they’re still assessing their options. So we’re still left wondering what Bertarelli’s decision will be – negotiate, appeal or race in cats?

And finally, Sebastien Destremau outlines why Russell and Oracle might not be that heart-broken should Alinghi chose the final option and meet a 2008 challenge in giant catamarans, in a story for Eurobutt (scroll down past Magnus) – sentiments which are echoed by a New Zealand Herald article which may owe something to Sebastien’s thoughts – or is it the other way around? Hard to tell on the internet…

When I started this blog at the end of the last Cup and tackbytack.com’s coverage, I made some rules for myself about only doing AC news. Stay away from other events and opinion pieces – otherwise the damn thing is going to take over your life (and unless you see any advertising around here, I need some spare time to try and earn a living…) just like madforsailing.com did in its day...

The last few weeks (Tornadoes out of the Olympics, Baird not Veal for ISAF World Sailor of the Year, not to mention the ongoing descent into self-destruction of the Cup itself), have sorely tried those limits. But I’m toughing it out – self-interest rules, even when venality is held at bay… why should sailing be any different?

Or maybe I've just got cynical...


Mark Chisnell ©

Oracle 1 - Alinghi 0

Err…. What did I say on the last post? Hopefully there’s a wi-fi link in case there’s something worth reporting? Well there was - wi-fi and something worth reporting, that is… the Spanish yacht club Club Náutico Español de Vela (CNEV) have been eased from their position as Challenger of Record (COR) by Justice Cahn of the New York State Supreme Court. The new COR is the Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) and Oracle Racing.

The court decision has been posted on the GGYC website, along with the club’s response, in which Oracle CEO, Russell Coutts, expresses a desire for a conventional America’s Cup regatta in Valencia. Their preferences are:

'1) Seek to agree rules with all competitors along the lines of the October 17 “nine points” compromise proposal and race a conventional America’s Cup competition in Valencia in 2009.

2) If a Deed of Gift challenge went ahead, the club would seek to race under the AC90 monohull rule already published. If Alinghi did not agree to that, in multi-hulls.

3) In all scenarios, GGYC would seek by mutual consent to have a Challenger Selection Series with as many challengers as possible. “We will immediately endeavour to meet with the other challengers to mutually agree a fair set of rules negotiated with all the other teams,” Coutts said. “We will be very happy if we can put the last few months behind us and get on with sailing.”'

So, what happens from here? Will Alinghi negotiate on that basis, sail in cats or appeal? Alinghi made a curt statement yesterday that has been filled out in an interview with Brad Butterworth on their website today, the 28th November.

Hard to judge how it’s going to go from that - Brad certainly doesn’t seem to think anything is going to be settled anytime soon. While the two sides didn’t seem that far apart when negotiations broke down a few days ago, we really don’t know how much mud is flying behind the scenes…

Meanwhile, as this is all over every news outlet – sailing and mainstream media – and is hard to miss (unless you're surfing in darkest Cornwall) I’m only going to point you in the direction of three of them, and the first two were kindly provided for me by John Whalen… First the New York Times and then the International Herald Tribune - both are luminaries of the global media, one is rather better than the other…

But for the real deal, I’d suggest you go straight to Cory Friedman, writing for Scuttlebutt – where he explains exactly why GGYC have won, and why the chance of reversal on appeal is unlikely…. It’s all to do with the word ‘having’ - and it means that you need to have had an annual regatta on an arm of the sea, as well as going to have one….

Whoever said precise grammar wasn’t important?


Mark Chisnell ©


Today's the day when the New York State Suprememe Court will hear Oracle and the Golden Gate Yacht Club's (GGYC) case against Société Nautique de Genève (SNG) and Alinghi. Ahead of the hearing in the court of Justice Cahn, there’s been plenty of tit-for-tat filing and press release issuing – the ever reliable Cory Friendman summarises the latest court papers for Scuttlebutt.

The latest press release from the GGYC is in the normal place (click on the title 'GGYC Press Release October 20, 2007' and it opens a Word file). While you can read the latest from SNG on their website.

There is, apparently, a meeting this morning in New York ahead of the court appearance, but having read all that, all I can say is thank god for courts and judges...

Meantime, in case you missed it, Paul Cayard has signed with Desafío Español, the current Challenger of Record, as their Sports Director. Cayard joined the team for a few months ahead of the last Cup, and that role is now to be reprised for an entire Cup cycle. There was a press conference on the appointment in Valencia, which was reported in the Valencia Sailing blogspot.

And finally, another Italian syndicate has broken cover, Eolia has submitted 'pre-registration' to America's Cup Management (ACM) ahead of getting enough funding to actually enter. The team intends to be as Italian as possible, with that language spoken on board the race boat, and they’d like to get hold of a Luna Rossa boat for training. According to BYM News the 50 million Euro budget will come from a Milan company, a bank and a number of businessmen in the north, along with 10 million Euros from Sicily - and Francisco De Angelis has been connected with the team.

So, now you can all go and hold your breath until end of play in the New York courts…


Mark Chisnell ©


This is turning into something of a manual news aggregation service, as I really don’t have much to add about the whole memo-by-affidavit battle currently being waged in the New York courts, as the Golden Gate Yacht Club/Oracle (GGYC), go up against Société Nautique de Genève/Alinghi (SNG) in their dispute over the Protocol for the 33rd America's Cup.

So I'll get straight to the point - and push you in the direction of Scuttlebutt where New York lawyer, Cory E. Friedman is following the proceedings in Justice Cahn’s court for that internet magazine.

First up, check out the second half of Cory’s analysis of the pre-start moves - the affidavit’s and memorandum filed by SNG ahead of yesterday’s court hearing. Then you can read Cory’s report on the hearing itself.

The bones of it is that both sides will file papers and the judgement will be based on those papers – there will only be a trial if Justice Cahn subsequently decides he needs one and that, apparently, is unlikely.

The schedule is that SNG will file on 17th September, GGYC on 1st October, with the responses being due between 5th and 19th October and a hearing on the 22nd October - when we may get a judgement and if not, if should emerge pretty soon afterwards.

So, this looks more like a two mile windward-leeward than a round the world race at this stage, let’s hope it stays that way. On this schedule, there’s a good chance the court case will be decided before the new rule for the ninety footers has even been announced – unless someone appeals…

You can read Alinghi’s take on it here…

And the GGYC’s view of yesterday’s action is right here…

Meanwhile, as we mentioned in Saturday’s post the America's Cup Management (ACM) Arbitration Panel have filed their full decision. There was a suggestion in the conclusions to the ruling, published on Saturday, that SNG/ACM might consider changing some points of the disputed Protocol. It turns out that these all relate to the Arbitration Panel’s own operation and SNG’s right to dismiss the Panel’s members and change its mechanics of operation - nothing here that is going to make GGYC much happier, and the New York Court will remain the focus of the argument. But if you've got the time, there's a lot of background stuff in that judgement that will likely also be coming before Justice Cahn, and it may help you make your own mind up - should you want to...

Elsewhere, the Valencia Sailing blogspot has an excellent account of a Desafio Espanol press conference (whose Club Nautico Español de Vela (CNEV) lawyers were in New York the same afternoon), in which they announced that Farr Yacht Design will be working for Desafio this time around.

If you’ve been paying attention, you should now be wondering – who’s going to be working with Russell Coutts at Oracle? Juan K was there with Farr last time, but he’s been linked to just about everybody, particularly the Brits. They are supposed to be presenting their design and sailing team at the Southampton Boat Show this Friday, so I guess we may all learn a little more about how the cards are falling out then.

It's not yacht racing as we know it, but it's not dull either, is it?


Mark Chisnell ©

Explainer: The Small Print

I couldn't let this one go by for anyone that doesn't subscribe to that fine internet magazine, Scuttlebutt. The people there have got Cory E. Friedman, a New York lawyer, to do what I've been avoiding (partly because I know nothing about it, and partly because if I wanted to spend my life reading affidavits and legalese I wouldn't have ended up here doing this...), that is - read the Golden Gate Yacht Club's (GGYC) legal papers and assess the coming court case.

So here's Cory's assessment of the opening salvoes in the court battle from the GGYC - hopefully there will be more along soon, when the Societe Nautique de Geneve step into the ring - because I sure ain't gonna do it for you...

And some good news from America's Cup Management (ACM), who have announced that Tom Schnackenberg will be a consultant to the rule development process for the 90 footers proposed in Alinghi's 33rd Protocol. Schnackenberg's role will be as class rule and competition regulations consultant for the design consultation period, which starts on the 15th September and runs through six weeks of discussion with the current challengers, until the rule is published on the 31st October.

Grant Simmer, design team coordinator for Alinghi, had this to say, 'Tom's responsibility will be to consult and consider the input of the entered challengers and to publish the new class rule by 31st October. Tom will also work on other racing regulations related to the 33rd America's Cup.'

But while Schnackenberg's recent work has been with the challengers (Luna Rossa in 2007), his future allegiance is not in doubt - Simmer added, 'Once he has completed these tasks we look forward to welcoming Tom in the Alinghi design team.'

I doubt anyone will regard this appointment as anything other than good news - Schnackenberg's critical role in winning the America's Cup three times (Australia II in '83, New Zealand in '95 and 2000) and his technical brilliance are unquestioned. Hopefully he'll also bring the authority to the group to ensure that the many different views and ideas that will be expressed in these discussions evolve into a great boat - you know what they say about camels and committees....


Mark Chisnell ©

Getting Down to Business...

The Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) have posted on their website some of the documents that they've brought before Justice Herman Cahn and the New York State Supreme Court, in support of their case against Société Nautique de Genève (SNG) and ACM/Alinghi.

One of them is an affidavit by Tom Ehman - Tom Ehman is Head of External Affairs for Oracle, but was probably better known on this interweb-thingy as the BOB blogger.

The other document is a Memorandum of Law, in support of GGYC's motion for preliminary injunction and expedited trial and discovery - whatever that means. These appear to be the documents that GGYC presented to the court on the 22nd August, which were mentioned in the previous couple of blogs.

I'm starting to feel that this is a good time to tag out of the America's Cup blogging business and leave it to the lawyers. There're fifty odd pages in these two documents, and I've quite possibly got better things to do than read it all. Maybe it's time to go sailing and wait till the court has settled this one. But if GGYC's request to have the hearing in October is granted (and I think we'll know that on September 10th or soon after), it may not be that long to wait...

Elsewhere, there are continued rumours about a second Spanish challenge, organized by Pedro Perello, director of the Transpac 52 Siemens. The Valencia Life Network has posted a story saying that King Juan Carlos has backed the second challenge, which will apparently take over the Luna Rossa base, have Paul Cayard picking the crew, and Juan Kouyoumdjian designing – while Juan K said in an interview with the Valencia Sailing blogspot that he’d been approached by five different teams…


Mark Chisnell ©