Friday, November 16, 2007

Love Me, Love My Dog

(updated Sunday, November 18, on account'a how because)

I miss Tom Blackaller. Tom had a markedly-different but favorite, mother's-no-no version of the phrase, "love me, love my dog," that perfectly fits this America's Cup moment.

Having tripped across speculation of direct confrontation brewing between the few remaining inhabitants of the BMW Oracle Racing base camp - in Port America's Cup, Valencia - and Spanish authorities allegedly tasked with evicting them, I put the question to my usual well-placed sources on the inside. What came back was this:

"A few rumors to that effect reported in Spanish press but we are confident all will be appropriately resolved. We are in discussion with the local authorities. The team has complied with all requirements necessary to continue staying at the base."

My, my.

Most of the company I keep, including those not professionally joined at the hip to developments in Cup sailing, are convinced that much of what Alinghi, the defender, has recently said and done represents an attempt to maneuver public opinion toward blaming BMW Oracle Racing for the next (as planned by the defender?) delay in an event that should happen in 2009 but probably will not. Reluctant though I am to impute motive, I note that the defender's behavior is consistent with such an interpretation.

That would make sense, given that BMW Oracle's lawsuit still pending in the New York courts has in fact contributed to the "uncertainty" that Alinghi's counsel likes to cite as the source of the problem. But is a legal challenge responsible for the situation we face now? I'd point to the defender's overly-ambitious original protocol and overly-ambitous overhaul of the format. The recently-published AC90 Rule and Event Regulations for AC 33 make a pretty read. But the racing schedule as published is based on an assumed field of 10 challengers. At present there are 5 accepted challengers, plus BMW Oracle, which (depending on how you count it) makes 3 out of 5 or 4 out of 6 endorsing the just-rejected proposal. In neither case do you have the 10-challenger field that would readily have appeared had America's Cup racing simply rolled forward on the momentum of AC 32.

Friday, November 16 was an arbitrary deadline set by Alinghi for BMW Oracle to drop its suit and challenge under the protocol or else.

Thus we light the stage for an announcement (will it happen?) by the defender that racing will not happen in 2009.

We cannot, however, sell the spin that everything would be just GREAT if not for Larry Ellison's pesky lawyers.

And we are one impasse closer to hearing what the court has to say.

While this blog headlines, Love Me, Love My Dog, my Spanish colleague, Jaume Soler Albertí, asks: ¿Realmente quiere Alinghi la Copa en 2009? Does Alinghi really want a Cup in 2009?

As of Sunday in California, all the public releases have come from the BMW Oracle Racing camp.

To read a pdf of the six-page settlement offer, click right here.

To read a statement released by BMW Oracle Racing's Golden Gate Yacht Club, click here.

And to read GGYC's reaction to the rejection, click here.

I'm on standby for direct word from Alinghi that we're not headed this way . . .

As photographed by me. Longtime readers will recall that, unlike some of my colleagues, I was happy in Valencia and loving the experience and I look forward to returning. But it's going to feel a lot better if we don't flush this thing down the drain first.

By the way (note to CNEV). Last night I went to a meeting of tenants at the San Francisco Yacht Harbor. It was held at the Golden Gate Yacht Club, which had (as ever) a roof, an open door, service staff, and all the accoutrement of a functioning yacht club. Their 2007 Midwinters began two weeks ago(before this ugly oil spill), and that series has been around longer than I have. Meaning a while.

Transat Jacque Vabre and Barcelona World Race

The leading Open 60s have about a thousand miles to go to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil to finish the Transat Jacque Vabre crossing from Le Havre, and the two boats in front are putting up quite a show. We have Jean Le Cam and Gildas Morvan on VM Matériaux reporting a three-mile lead over Michel Desjoyeaux and Emmanuel Le Borgne on Foncia, which I would count as a dead heat. The only North Americans in the race, Rich Wilson and Mike Birch aboard Great American III, are not having a great race; they're showing up 16th, 865 miles behind the leaders.

The Barcelona World Race fleet, meanwhile, was clearing the Straits of Gibraltar as daylight passed across the USA, with the doublehanded teams aboard making their initial bets on Atlantic weather routing. Here is an outtake from the event managers:

The question facing the skippers is how far west to go as they set up for the next scoring gate at the Canary Islands. The rhumb line is not necessarily the fastest route. The current forecasts seem to be enticing the bulk of the fleet further west. Paprec-Virbac 2, the lead boat, is positioned furthest west and that seems to have paid as it leads PRB by 11 miles on the 16:00 GMT position report.

"Studying the weather reports is pretty intense," reports Paprec-Virbac 2 skipper Jean-Pierre Dick. "I think aloud, challenge, argue and discuss the finer details before coming to a common decision with Damian, and that is the nice thing about being double-handed in this race - it makes it interesting to think things over together. Our choice to go west yesterday morning, and the slightly stronger wind offshore, really helped!"

American Jonathan McKee reports from Estrella Damm that the boat is "reaching at about six knots; it's pretty tame." Studying the ocean and the weather systems in play for the next few days, McKee says, "It's not going to be tradewinds, that's for sure. It's a function of where you are and what you can do with the wind that you have."

So they're out of the Med and on their way. Here's how Veolia Environnement looked in passing Gibraltar—Kimball

©Kirsten Scully/