A United States Supreme Court ruling has paved the way for a multi-boat challenge in the 33rd America's Cup instead of a widely anticipated US-Swiss showdown.This content was published on July 30, 2008 - 14:58
The court's decision was a legal victory for the Swiss-based yacht team Alinghi in its year-long court battle with the US team Oracle over where, when and how the race should be held.
Alingi locked horns with Oracle's sponsors, the Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC), last year after retaining the 2007 America's Cup and naming Spain's Club Nautico Español de Vela (CNEV) as the race's Challenger of Record.
The Challenger of Record names the type of boat to be used for the race, and Oracle subsequently sued Alinghi.
It argued that CNEV was not an organised yacht club and had not previously conducted an annual regatta, as outlined in the cup's rule book, known as the Deed of Gift.
Oracle argued the Swiss team, which is sponsored by Société Nautique de Genève, was trying to change the rules for the next regatta in its favour.
Under an earlier court ruling, Oracle and Alinghi were due to battle out the cup in a one-on-one competition rather than the traditional multi-challenger format.
But the Supreme Court appeals division determined on Tuesday that the Spanish club was organised as a yacht club at the time of the challenge and found the rule book's regatta requirement was "ambiguous".
Ernesto Bertarelli, the Swiss billionaire who owns Alinghi and is one of its crew, said he was "delighted" with the latest court ruling.
"The court's decision validates our actions and enables us to put the America's Cup back in the water."
For its part, GGYC said it was "surprised and disappointed". It can now file a final appeal to the New York Court of Appeals but announced it was taking legal advice and would consider the implications of the ruling before deciding its next step.
The decision overturns a New York Supreme Court ruling from last November that found in favour of the opposing GGYC.
Judge Herman Cahn had ruled that GGYC was the valid Challenger of Record and set up a best-of-three series between Alinghi and Oracle for the next America's Cup, rather than the multi-boat competition to determine a challenger.
But the two disagreed on terms for a traditional regatta and the Swiss team took the case to the appeals court hoping for a later race date, a separate Challenger of Record and for a larger field of challengers. Alinghi had argued that the proposed showdown would unfairly exclude ten other teams.
Marc Pajot, skipper of the French Spirit which hoped to take part, commented: "If the decision is definitive, we are very, very happy about a return to multiple challengers."
Augustin Zuluetta, head of the CNEV team Desafio Español, added: "We're very hopeful that this means an end to this long process and that it will allow all the teams to race the next America's Cup at Valencia."
The appeals court said that once CNEV receives a copy of the ruling it can give the required ten months written notice of challenge to Alinghi.
While the Oracle-Alinghi duel was expected to take place sometime in 2009, the cup could now take place in 2011 to allow time for the construction of boats suitable for a multiple challenge.
swissinfo with agencies
Alinghi won the America's Cup at its first attempt in 2003, beating Team New Zealand 5-0 in Auckland.
The Swiss brought the trophy - the Auld Mug - to Europe for the first time.
The word Alinghi was invented by Bertarelli as a child. It was a little word to say everything and nothing with his sister. His first dinghy was also called Alinghi.
The inaugural race was held off the Isle of Wight in 1851. America dominated right up until 1983 when Australia won the trophy.
In 1995 New Zealand became only the third country to win the competition, successfully defending their title in 2000.
The Swiss syndicate Alinghi sailed to victory against the New Zealand vessel Black Magic in 2003 and became the first European team to win the Auld Mug.
Alinghi, run by billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli and backed by Geneva's Société Nautique, won the world's premier sailing prize in 2007 in Valencia, Spain, defeating Team New Zealand 5-2 in a best-of-nine contest.
According to the Deed of Gift – the rules of the 155-year-old race - the winner gets to pick the next Challenger of Record, and the two groups establish the rules for the next race.
The July 29, 2008 ruling by the US Supreme Court Appellate Division overturned an "ambiguous" requirement in the Deed of Gift rule for the Challenger of Record to have previously held regattas.
The court named Spain's Club Nautico Español de Vela as the race's Challenger of Record for the 33rd America's Cup. It has ten months to give a written notice of challenge to Alinghi, the current America's Cup holder.
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