Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Cordial Exchange of Views

I've believed for a while that the Alinghi camp is the victim of wishful thinking. Nothing in Wednesday's nonmeeting of the minds in Geneva changed that. This happens in Balkans diplomacy all the time, right? What Tom Ehman of BMW Oracle Racing calls "a cordial exchange of views" becomes, in the opposing corner, an engine inspiring Société Nautique de Genève/Alinghi/America's Cup Management counsel Lucien Masmejan to use the words "disappointed" and "frustrated."

The words coming out of the Alinghi corner sound cornered to me. They really had no next move except to go back to court, and that's what happens next, to ask Dad to rule on whether we race in giant multihulls in 2008 or--as Alinghi devoutly wishes--in 2009.

Wishful thinking? No one at Alinghi has moved past calling the first court ruling—the one that disqualified the Spanish team from acting as challenger of record—a "technicality." But to paint Larry Ellison as an opportunistic pirate out to hijack the America's Cup, which is what they attempt to do, ignores the nearly-universal negative reaction to their original protocol, the one with their lapdog "challenger," ignores the compromise proposal put forward by BMW Oracle last November and signed by four other challengers, ignores that they knew all along that nobody's lobbing softballs here and it's bad luck to crowd the plate.

On one of Ernesto Bertarelli's visits to the USA last year, we spent time together over two days, and the experience was genuinely cordial, and he looked me in the eye and said, "The changes we made to the protocol were really very small."

But thinking so doesn't make it so. I mean, the man also let time pass because he was counting on winning in court.

Now, don't imagine me as someone who is going to labor through all the pages of all the court documents to compare the details of the crucial dispute du jour: whether or not there was an agreement to stop the clock—on a ten-month-Deed of Gift challenge cycle—pending resolution by the court. Or, given such an understanding, the dimensions and start-stop dates of same. But I feel pretty sure that the BMW Oracle camp, in demanding to race in October 2008, is coming to this position with zero tolerance for wishful thinking. I'm sure they're sure their ducks are all lined up.

As for who wins the next round, let's quote a great American hero, Art Crumb's cartoon character, Mr. Natural:

Mr. Natural says, "Whatever's happening keeps right on happening."

Oh, one final thought:

"A cordial exchange of views."


Tom, you crack me up—Kimball

For more on this topic see David Schmidt's story at