Friday, 13 July 2007

Golden Gate Yacht Club Issues Statement

The yacht club challenging the appointment of COR for the 33rd America's Cup today publicly issued a press statement, explaining their action in writing to Société Nautique Genève and claiming the role of COR for themselves.

The statement in full:

San Francisco's Golden Gate Yacht Club Challenges for 33rd America's Cup

The Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) of San Francisco today presented a formal challenge for the 33rd America's Cup to the Société Nautique Genève (SNG), defending yacht club of Cup winner Team Alinghi. The challenge was delivered in person on July 11th by representatives of GGYC to an officer of the Swiss club in Geneva. The GGYC challenge follows the SNG's acceptance of what appears to be an invalid challenge that unfairly advantages the defender, Team Alinghi.

After Alinghi won the 32nd America’s Cup on July 3rd, SNG accepted a challenge from the Spanish Club Nautico Espanol de Vela (CNEV). It appears that CNEV is a brand new yacht club specifically created for this challenge and as such fails to meet the requirements for a challenging yacht club as defined by the Deed of Gift. The Deed of Gift, a document written in 1857, defines the rules for the America's Cup to this day. The Deed of Gift requires that the Challenging yacht club conduct an annual regatta on an arm of the sea. CNEV has never conducted a regatta of any kind and thus cannot be a legitimate Cup challenger.

Furthermore, the race Protocol for the 33rd America’s Cup agreed to by the challenging yacht club CNEV and the defending SNG are invalid because they fail to specify the rules for the next competition by omitting a specific regatta date, location and class of boat. The Protocol is also invalid because virtually all Challenger rights are eliminated and total control of the event and its rules are granted to the Defender, Team Alinghi. The Alinghi Protocol for the 33rd Americas Cup alters the very nature of the competition giving unprecedented and unfair advantages to the Defender.

Without the basic elements of regatta venue, date and boat design rules as required by the Deed of Gift, the Alinghi Protocol provides no opportunity for a fair and equitable competition. Only the Defender can begin to plan their campaign and design their yachts while all the other competitors must sit and wait for further information. We have spoken with most of our fellow AC 32 Challengers and we believe that they share our view. We seek to continue to expand and build upon the successes of the 32nd America's Cup which was exciting and rewarding for competitors, sponsors, media and fans by returning to an environment where mutual consent in forming the rules provided a fair and close competition for all.

We will endeavor to work with SNG to mutually agree to appropriate terms for the 33rd America's Cup to keep the event exciting and fair for all. Under SNG's stewardship, the 32nd America's Cup delivered some of the most hotly-contested racing in recent Cup history and brought Cup sailing to more people worldwide than ever before. We hope we can build on this for the future and continue the momentum we started here together in Valencia.

The Deed of Gift requires the Defender to accept a valid challenge, and together the Defender and Challenger can mutually agree on the rules for the competition. Failing such agreement, then the original rules in the Deed will dictate the terms, defaulting to a challenge to take place in ten months with a boat defined by the challenger.

Ends Statement

Clearly, GGYC aren't going to back down any time soon. With BYM Sailing & News indicating their source in Madrid expects confirmation of Valencia as host for the 33rd AC very soon, it appears that Larry Ellison and Ernesto Bertarelli are on a collision course leading to a court of law, with an absence of certainty over the resulting impact.

On the face of it, the challenge to the Protocol is a highly principled affair, if that is the motivation. Granting enormous advantage to the defender by way of a COR of convenience helps no one; uncertainty over venue, vessel and timeline will disadvantage all but the decision maker.

A court case could run and run; most likely leading to the decision of a court-adjudicated compromise. A win to SNG and CNEV will see the same state of confusion played out over a more distant time frame, possibly without the valued involvement of a wounded and sulking Oracle Racing, and would do nothing to address the perceived injustice of the Protocol. A win to GGYC might well see them deliver on the 33rd cup being held just 8 months from decision, between just defender and COR (Oracle Racing); under such circumstances, GGYC has proposed a multi-hull vessel of challenge, and we remember how that worked out previously! Harder to judge is what impact this would have on other teams and their personnel, and the wider future for the competition.

None of this is helping the smaller teams that both protagonists claim to be representing in their actions; try developing the interest of sponsors if this mess continues; try settling on a boat design when you don't even know how many hulls to include, let alone how long to make them; try keeping a team together, or forming a new one, when you can't even provide the answers to the most essential questions.

And where does all this leave our team of special interest? TEAMORIGIN founder Sir Keith Mills must be ruing the day he decided to throw his hat into the ring; but he's no stranger to improbable odds, as those of us who watched the London 2012 Olympics bid get gold will remember (it had only been considered a candidate for silver or more likely bronze). The thing is, in bidding for the Olympics, while there might have been room for AC-like skulduggery and subterfuge, it all got played out according to a very well defined timeline. That suited the London bid as Sir Keith is someone who likes to get on with it; the problem is he now finds himself in a new playground that isn't playing ball right now.

A delay is a pain to TEAMORIGIN (how do you use the time wisely when you've announced you want to play, but don't yet know the rules? You can paint out the name 'Alinghi' on SUI75 only so many times during its transformation to GBR75). The real killer is the confusion. 'Yes, we can guarantee your £15 Million will be spent well and generate maximum exposure for your brand' doesn't wash when all the action is due to be held on Court TV. Hopefully the time since their launch back in January has been enjoyed to the maximum, because the reality of running an America's Cup team starts to bite right here.

There are only two certainties right now:
People with little interest in sport are about to get very rich in court representing the differing interests of a competition we love, and as ever, the America's Cup is proving great for spectators, even if events offshore seem to matter least of all.

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