Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Biggest America's Cup Ever (?)

It could be that.

If we don't get negotiation and compromise, if we actually have a three-race grudge match in giant multihulls—a Deed of Gift match, as BMW Oracle is calling it—this will go beyond sport. You'll see it in the likes of Fortune and Forbes. You'll see it on the nightly news.

It could be the biggest breakthrough in sport since Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs launched women's tennis in that silly Battle of the Sexes. It could be the launching point that pro sailors are dreaming of.

Or not.

Be careful what you wish for.

The downside is that poor old AC then keeps banging around like a kid from juvy who just can't get a grip. If there's no reconciliation there can be no planning for the future until we have a winner, and so much for the teams on the sidelines. And there's all that wasted breath explaining to the new eyeballs that, "It's not really like this." And there's all that, well, waste.

But if we have a compromise—remember, on October 17, three "accepted"challengers joined BMW Oracle in offering compromise terms to Alinghi—this could come out OK. Unless, for lack of sponsors, the event is already hosed. I recall a few months ago running across Bruno Troublé at Harbour Court and he said, "You do understand why Louis Vuitton got out, don't you?"

And I had to allow as how I did.

So here we are. November 27, 2007. Justice Herman Cahn of the Supreme Court of the State of New York rules that Club Náutico Español de Vela is, say hey, not a valid challenger of record, and this less than 48 hours after they completed their first Annual Regatta. Intending to do it is not the same as having done it. Nice try, guys. Define "is."

BMW Oracle Racing/GGYC become for a second time the challenger of record (Alinghi negotiators' worst nightmare, the ehmanizer, warms up in the wings), and they say their first choice now is to go back to that October 17 compromise offer and build an inclusive regatta in 90-foot monohulls. In speaking of that offer, TeamOrigin's Sir Keith Mills minced no words in his opinion that this is the way forward.

In a Down Under case of frankness-breaks-out, Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton said to The New Zealand Herald, regarding the court ruling, "That's what we've always been working to, in the hope that common sense would prevail . . . From our point of view, we're just rolling and assuming a 2009 environment and always have." Dalton was also quoted as saying that the Kiwi team has a good relationship with Larry Ellison's Oracle, but "not so much with Alinghi."

Now with Alinghi going off to pursue, as the statement says, "an analysis of the various options offered by the Deed of Gift," I have to hope that we can roll the calendar back to October 17. To force this thing to a Deed of Gift grudge match wouldn't be like peeing in the pool. More like doing #2 from the high board. And then you wouldn't want to fall.

What's that old Stones song, something about your 19th nervous breakdown?

Here it comes, here it comes—KL