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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[...] Re: Wanna see what the Swiss can do? It’s been announced that the venue for the Americas Cup will be Ras al-Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates. But, this may be challenged which could mean yet another court case. See this. [...]

Why don’t you think it’s important that the rules are followed? If the Deed of Gift says there are certain conditions, then the defender has to follow them. If they won’t heed the Deed, and won’t even try to come to agreement with the challenger, then they shouldn’t be surprised when a court has to vet their decision. Bad to be in court, but worse to be arrogant enough to think your business deals should trump the Deed of Gift. I think everyone wants to see a fair race on the water, within the rules, not just whatever the heck the defender feels like putting out there.

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive

There’s an error in your article. Alinghi is not sponsored by UBS anymore. If I’m not mistaken their sponsorship ended a few months ago.

Mike, you’ve missed the point.

The point, as argued in the article, is that the Deed is open to interpretation. Hence the squabbling from both teams. Both the Challenger and Defender have been contesting each other’s decisions for months, in the courts and through increasingly ludicrous press releases and interviews.

I was luck enough to see the magnificent Alinghi on Lake Geneva this weekend. It’s a stunning boat. Massive and powerful yet it also appears delicate the way it slices through the water with seemingly effortless grace. No doubt, BMW Oracle is equally amazing. What we all want to see is the America’s Cup become a magnificent sailing race between the most innovative boats and best crews. The 33 edition of the America’s Cup has been tarnished by bickering but i hope everyone learns from this experience so that for the 34 edition, the subjective interpretations of the Deed are sorted out early.

Posted by finkfankfunk | Report as abusive

Alinghi has been a disgrace as Defender. GGYC has no choice but to face them in court. So far they have: 1) chosen a sham yacht club as initial defender, 2) violated the terms of the Deed in choosing a venue, 3) built a sailboat with an engine, 4)negotiated a secret deal with the judging body that they refused to show the Challenger, 5) thrown away all the rules of sailing and won’t tell the Challenger what the rules will be until the day of the first race. It is NOT a ‘pox on both your houses’ situation – Alinghi is completely and entirely at fault for this state of affairs.

Posted by Peter | Report as abusive


What BMW/Oracle (see Ellison) is doing to this sport is deplorable.

They lost, they got their butts kicked!

But being the sore losers that they are, they conveniently went running to the friendly US courts to get their way – and in doing so created this mess.

The most appalling fact about all this is that BMW is still associated with such unethical behaviour.


Posted by usualsuspect | Report as abusive

usualsuspect – Deplorable is SNG being found guilty of it’s choice of a COR being it’s shame yacht club CNEV. To this date SNG & co have yet to apologize for the 2 years they have dragged this out in the courts. That is a real disgrace for someone in a sport to be found guilty & to not feel remorse to their sport.

What makes the matter worse it that SNG had the chance to turn the AC around by taking the Mutual Consent route with GGYC but they refused not once but at least 3 times. This makes this AC the only AC that has no Mutual Consent at all……yes, they did reach some Mutual Consent in the only other default Deed challenge in 1988.

What is really appalling is how people like yourself refer to winning it on the water. Here you condone cheating by a Defender who is cheating off the water. This before the on the water racing has even started. Your logic & those like your really do need to undertand how rules make sports happen. They are not there to be abused as you support but they are their to insure there is balance in the game.

Please go do some reading on the AC history & ethics in sports.

Where can I trace a crew list for the first race round the Isle of Wight in 1851.
I know that some came from the Island!