A New York court has cleared the way for a possible one-on-one showdown in ultra fast 90-foot trimarans between the San Francisco-based BMW Oracle Racing team and the Swiss Alinghi syndicate, the sailing team that has won the last two America's Cups.
After nearly two years of litigation, Thursday's unanimous ruling by the New York State Court of Appeals sets up the potential for a high-stakes grudge match between software tycoon Larry Ellison and pharmaceutical magnate Ernesto Bertarelli, if they can't agree soon on rules to involve additional challengers.
It is still unclear where and when the boats will compete for the oldest trophy in international sport - one that dates to 1851. But race organizers point to next year off Valencia, Spain, or elsewhere.
"The right to act as trustee of the America's Cup should be decided on the water and not in a courtroom," the court wrote in a 6-to-0 decision. Ellison and Bertarelli should "work together to maintain this noble sailing tradition as 'a perpetual challenge cup for friendly competition between foreign countries.' "
The court ruling was a victory for Ellison's BMW Oracle team, whose lawyers argued that Bertarelli had attempted to host the 33rd America's Cup with rules rigged to the Swiss team's advantage.
The ruling could also benefit fans of extreme sailing. The gargantuan trimarans designed and built in the past year by BMW Oracle and Alinghi are extremely fast, terribly difficult to race, outright dangerous and vulnerable in heavy winds and seas.
Eighteen teams from 11 countries had reserved a spot to begin cup trials in Valencia next spring in high-tech sailboats with only one keel.
Ellison's team chose court instead. His lawyers argued that Alinghi had formed a Spanish yacht club that had never held an offshore regatta. Although the club was the first to file a challenge, Ellison's lawyers argue that it was a bogus challenge designed to ensure Alinghi's preferred rules for the next race.
Bertarelli's lawyers countered that Ellison was attempting through litigation to eliminate other cup contenders and become a finalist in a one-on-one race with Alinghi, something that Ellison's team had never achieved on the water. Bertarelli said his rules would make the regatta more affordable to other teams.
The appellate judges reinstated a lower court ruling that had declared BMW Oracle the official "challenger of record" for the next regatta.
Ellison's team launched its 90-foot trimaran last fall and has been training on it. Bertarelli's team has yet to reveal its secret, multihull design.
"We're hoping that Alinghi will come back and renegotiate for the benefit of all the challengers," said Norbert Bajurin, a San Francisco mechanic and staff commodore of the Golden Gate Yacht Club, BMW Oracle's sponsoring organization.
But, he added, if the rules cannot be agreed upon, the original "deed of gift" for the America's Cup calls for a two-boat duel between rivals to be held within 10 months.
Author: Jim Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more ...