Sunday, January 6, 2008

Keels'n Cats

I ask:

How many angels can be impaled on the head of a pin?

And if that doesn't strike your fancy, I ask:

Do we really think it’s going to be hard for Oracle Racing’s designers to stick a “keel” on a 90-foot multihull should the judge buy into the sophistry of Alinghi’s new crop of lawyers? They contend that Oracle is challenging in a monohull 90 feet wide because the Notice of Challenge refers to a "keel yacht." They further contend this is contradictory and therefore invalid (my phrasing and interpretation).

The last time I checked in with IMS, or the remnants thereof, IMS boats were sailing with wooden keels for a ratings advantage. Are we going to have to sit through a court determination of the difference between a keel and a daggerboard?

What if Oracle sinks a 6-inch keel below each hull? Or adds a few kilos of lead at the bottom of each "lifting keel?" Or more likely, do we just go away on a shrug of the judge's shoulders and get on with whatever comes next? The next round of arguments is likely to turn on timeliness and the stringent requirements of life in court, not the definitions of the elements of sailing. Oracle contends that its challenge is valid; more than that, it argues that the defender, having requested summary judgment on arguments that included being challenged by a 90-foot multihull, now rejects that summary judgment by alleging that the challenger's vessel cannot logically be a 90-foot multihull.

If it all comes down to legalisms, the case is beyond me. But who can resist the fascination of sin, and it surely is a sin, to impale those poor little angels for the sake of mere sport, ego, or both of the above. And money. Gosh, I almost forgot money.

So, back to the elements of sailing . . .

A keel is a hydrodynamic element, a stability element, or both. All of us associate "keel" with monohull, and if you go searching you won't find much to contradict that. I betcha the Oracle folks wish they had just left out those four silly little letters. I betcha the Alinghi principals regret all the occasions when they referred to the Oracle challenger as obviously a multihull. I betcha, when this all shakes out, it would be a hoot to share a beer with the man on the bench.

I do not comprehend why the word “keel” appears in the notice of challenge handed to the defender on July 11, almost exactly six months ago. But is it un-doing for Oracle Racing? Not hardly. The exact wording, should you need it, shows up later in this post.

On a different note, I also fail to comprehend why anyone would think that either team has a determining advantage at this point, if we’re on our way to a showdown in big cats. Sure, Ernesto Bertarelli has experience in catamarans on Swiss lakes, and Larry Ellison does not have that. But when they meet out back of the corral and go for their guns, somebody else will be squeezing the trigger. Fifty-fifty is all I can make of it, until we spill blood.

Over the weekend, Oracle Racing/Golden Gate YC released the text of their “memorandum of law” in opposition to Alinghi/La Société Nautique de Genève and their new legal team’s attempt to renew and reargue the decision by New York Supreme Court Justice Herman Cahn, assigning the role of challenger of record to Oracle Racing. You can find those 13 pages right here.

Or, you can read the first paragraph and get the gist of it:


A litigant is perfectly free to change counsel after an adverse ruling on summary judgment, as SNG has here. But, a movant cannot change earlier sworn testimony, misrepresent the issues raised on the cross-motions of summary judgment, and change its theories and judgments. That is precisely what SNG has done in its effort to manufacture a factual dispute (even though it moved originally for summary judgment) . . .

And there is this, from the body of the document:

SNG's reliance on International Sailing Federation ("ISAF") rules is entirely misplaced. The use of the term "Keelboat" to describe a class of boats in the ISAF rules does not inform the meaning of the word "keel yacht" as used in GGYC's certificate. GGYC's Certificate refers to a "keel yacht," not a "keelboat" as defined in the ISAF rules . . . Indeed, multihull vessels have keels . . .

But not typically. Sorry, Amigos Americanos.

I can imagine Alinghi using this to fuss to infinity that this or that appendage is not a keel because it does not meet this or that alleged definition. I ask you again, how many angels can be impaled on the head of a pin?

Remember that in the past I’ve offered this little gem as a summation of the state of affairs . . .

Now I want to add this, which I shot in the Carmen district of Valencia, which seems to somehow capture the mood of the moment. If the scribble is too small to read, try clicking the pic . . .

Photo by Kimball Livingston

Now, as promised, here are the words in contention, as taken from the challenge of July 11:

I, Commodore Marcus Young, certify that the details set out below, as to the name, rig, and specified dimension of the keel yacht to represent Golden Gate Yacht Club in a match for the America’s Cup to be sailed in accordance with the Notice of Challenge herewith:

1. Name: USA
2. Owner: Oracle Racing, Inc.
3. Rig: Single-masted, sloop rigged
4. Dimensions:
(a)Length on Load Waterline: 90 feet
(b)Beam at Load Waterline: 90 feet
(c) Extreme Beam: 90 feet
(d) Draught of water (hull draft): 3 feet
(e) Draught of water (boards down): 20 feet

Are we having fun yet?

Ahem, that's my specialty—Kimball