Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Do the Swiss Understand Baseball ?

If the owner of the New York Yankees became simultaneously the Commissioner of Baseball, would you feel good about fielding a team?

That's pretty much the question that Larry Ellison is posing as he contests defender Ernesto Bertarelli's plans for the staging of America's Cup 33, demands a renegotiation of the protocol and the naming of a new Challenger of Record, and threatens to haul the whole show into court if he doesn't get the response he wants. Nobody has more fun than us, eh? And is it possible that Ellison doesn't trust Bertarelli? Here's Ellison: "We believe that Alinghi has been designing their boat for several months now. But we can't begin until they tell us what the rule is."

So can Bertarelli get away with ignoring Ellison—his Société Nautique de Genève has not accepted BMW Oracle as a challenger—or will they be forced to the bargaining table to create a new protocol, or do we go to court?

The Protocol Governing The Thirty Third America's Cup
Part A 4.4: ACM may, at its sole and entire discretion, accept or reject any entry received.

So far SNG has accepted the Spanish Challenger of Record, Club Náutico Español de Vela (represented by Desafío Español), the South African Team Shosholoza (representing the Royal Cape Yacht Club), the British newcomer TEAMORIGIN (Royal Thames Yacht Club), and as of Wednesday, Team New Zealand (the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron).

None of those teams, historically, are entirely free of Alinghi's, um, how do we put this, influence?

Even Team New Zealand took money from Alinghi, soon after 2003, to get their program going again, and unkind observers wondered aloud if they would have trialed against the defender in the spring of '07, had they not been under an obligation.

Just in case you were wondering why a few unfettered challengers view themselves as being in a class apart.

One such, besides BMW Oracle, would be Sweden's Victory Challenge, where I find this posting:

Golden Gate Yacht Club and its BMW Oracle Racing have sued Société Nautique de Genève in the High Court in the state of New York, the court which has the right to rule on disputes regarding the Deed of Gift, the original deed of gifts pertaining to the America’s Cup.

But in its press release Société Nautique de Genève chose to refrain from commenting on the true dispute behind the summons: ”that Golden Gate Yacht Club asks the High Court to void the challenge lodged by Spanish Club Náutico Español de Vela (CNEV) on the basis that CNEV does not fulfil the requirements demanded of a challenger in a Deed of Gift, to void the steering protocol for the 33rd America’s Cup which has been agreed between SNG and CNEV since CNEV is an invalid challenger and since SNG accepted CNEV’s invalid challenge on its own and created a protocol that eliminates the challengers’ rights and excludes important information about competition rules and conditions.”

Société Nautique de Genève focuses only on the part of the summons where Golden Gate Yacht Club demands that the court “rules that SNG accepts GGYC’s challenge and implements the conditions set forth in the Deed of Gift by, together with GGYC, creating a new protocol agreeable to all parties, and in case this fails, that an America’s Cup match is carried out together with GGYC in accordance with the rules set forth in the Deed of Gift.”
Bert Willborg/Victory Challenge

Ellison's legal challenge, of necessity, challenges the validity of the protocol and relies instead on his team's interpretation of the Deed of Gift. Coutts keeps saying he looks forward to getting back on the water (Bertarelli sidelined him this time around with an adjustment to the AC 32 protocol designed just for Coutts), but if we detour through the New York court system he'll want to have something else going in the meantime.

So I wonder? What does this mean for his proposed circuit of big catamarans, the one announced jointly with Paul Cayard? I "attended" the press conference audially, but no one asked the question I wanted asked.

On Wednesday as expected, Valencia was officially named the host city for a match in 2009, with pre-events in 2008 in Valencia and another European site yet to be determined. "May through July" was the designated time frame for AC 33. The plan promulgated continues to rely on Version 5 ACC boats for pre-event racing and "qualifying" with a new class of 90-footers for the actual match.

My, it wasn't just any committee that dreamed up this one.

Here's proof that the Swiss don't know what a fright Halloween can be:
It was also announced today that the Class Rule, the technical definition of the boats for the 33rd America's Cup, will be published on October 31st. The Competition Rules, with the precise format of the different racing phases, and the Event Regulations will also be published on October 31st.

Michel Bonnefous, CEO of America's Cup Management (ACM), said: "We are glad to announce today the cornerstones of the 33rd America's Cup, which should extend the positive trend for the event that was launched with the 32nd edition. As the Event Authority, we have now secured a venue that has already proved to be ideal and we hope to have set the elements to facilitate a close competition."

And now that Russell Coutts is out of the closet as the new CEO and skipper of BMW Oracle (yes, BMW is sticking with the program), it's put-up or shut-up time for the rumor squad that once had Alinghi tactician/skipper Brad Butterworth -— formerly Russell's right hand man -— bailing on Alinghi to join forces. I don't think they anticipated seeing these two camps at such loggerheads.

Anyone with half a memory will recall that Chris Dickson formerly held the title of CEO and skipper for BMW Oracle, and that worked fine all the way to the scene of the crash. While Dickson had a reputation for involving himself in every decision, Coutts in his public statements is saying that he intends to hire shoreside talent to free himself for sailing time and boat development, "the things I like to do and probably do best."

Now, after all the carping about Valencia and its alleged failings, I'm one toe deep in the twilight zone listening to the chorus of enthusiastic endorsements for coming back for more racing in Valencia, but it's the right call, of course. The infrastructure is there, and the sailing off Malvarossa Beach is actually rather good -- 2007 has been quite the year for weather anomalies; I'm glad I'm not in London just now -- and racing in Valencia is about the only thing that Ellison and Bertarelli agree upon at the moment.

Stop Press

I've got more on my mind, and maybe I'll be back with more, but the truth is, this is hasty pudding. I'm not entirely over the jetlag of a 25-hour door-to-door return from Valencia to San Francisco, and the sourdough is great but I'm still confused by the absence of tapas, and I have to figure out the future of this blog. I know that it's going to continue. I know that it's going to get a new name. I know that it won't be limited to the America's Cup for topics. And I know that I've got the web page messed up, and the only way to fix it is to start the process of posting, so that I can eventually find my way through to the repair. I'm going to get at it, and next time out, I'll try to be on-form—Kimball