Time to get America’s Cup back on the water

August 5, 2009

SAILING-AMERICAS/Sometimes you have to wonder if it wouldn’t be better for everyone concerned if Larry Ellison and Ernesto Bertarelli slugged it out in the boxing ring rather than the courts to decide who should lift the America’s Cup.

Despite huge sums they’ve poured into designing, building and testing the most outrageously hi-tech sailing machines imaginable, there’s certainly no sign of the two billionaires getting anywhere near competing for yachting’s most prestigious prize on the water.

In the latest twist to the long-running legal battle between them, Bertarelli’s defending team Alinghi — which was until April this year sponsored by Swiss bank UBS (big thanks to Valencia Sailing for pointing this fact out and to UBS for confirming it) — announced that the venue for the 33rd America’s Cup would be the warm and sunny seas off Ras al-Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates.

For a few hours, sailing fans could dream of a sailing spectacular next February, when Ellison’s BMW Oracle team — sailing under the colours of the Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) — is due to take on Alinghi in what has become one of the all time grudge matches in sailing.BMW Oracle

But hopes of a trip to the beaches of the Gulf were swiftly dashed when — huge groan — GGYC put out its own statement:

San Diego, CA, August 5, 2009 – Golden Gate Yacht Club believes Société Nautique de Genève’s choice of this venue, without our mutual consent, is contrary to the Deed of Gift and the decisions and orders of the New York courts. We are reviewing our options.

The Deed of Gift — the oldest part of the rule book of the America’s Cup — makes for fascinating reading for Cup aficionados and is the life-blood of a generation of lawyers who are making their living from challenging each and every point.

The trouble is that dry legal arguments in court don’t usually attract sponsors, TV rights or spectators. Ellison vs Bertarelli is in danger of killing the America’s Cup and the brand that has grown up around it.

It’s time for them to stop the battle of the egos on land and get back onto the high seas.


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