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America's Cup postponed

There's no plain sailing between Oracle and Alinghi for the time being

(Keystone)

Swiss yachting team Alinghi, holder of the prestigious America's Cup, says it is "disappointed" over the delay ordered by race organisers over a legal dispute.

The 33rd event, due to have taken place in 2009 off the Spanish port of Valencia, has now been put back to a date to be determined.

The Golden Gate Yacht Club, home of the United States syndicate Oracle Racing, has taken Alinghi to court in New York. It argues that the Swiss chose an illegitimate yacht club – Spain's Club Náutico Español de Vela – to set the rules for the next event.

In the continuing wrangle, the Americans are fighting Alinghi's Société Nautique de Genève over the format of the next regatta. In particular, they are at odds over Alinghi's plans to introduce a new class of boat.

Alinghi design team co-ordinator Grant Simmer commented: "It is very disappointing to all of us at Alinghi that Oracle has chosen not to enter the event based on the conditions that we have agreed with all the entered competitors and have instead chosen to hold the event to ransom by means of their court action."

"We look forward to the end of this uncertainty and to being able to get started with our plans to defend the America's Cup," he said in a statement.

Various scenarios

The statement added that Alinghi was now considering various scenarios for a Cup held in Valencia in either 2010 or 2011 and the implications for the team.

Organisers said the ongoing uncertainty had left them no choice "but to delay the event" as "many indicators demonstrate a lack of viability" to stage it in 2009 to the same standards as the 32nd America's Cup.

A statement from Oracle said race organisers had been hasty in their decision.

"There have been many opportunities to resolve this without taking this step. It's unfortunate and unnecessary," Golden Gate spokesman Tom Ehman said.

The New York Supreme Court, which has jurisdiction in America's Cup matters, could force Alinghi to sail against Oracle in a best-of-three duel, just as in 1989 when Dennis Connors' Stars and Stripes beat Team New Zealand after a court case.

On Tuesday, race organisers announced that there were now seven challengers to Alinghi for the next event, including one that had requested confidentiality pending its own announcement.

The six named are Desafío Español of Spain, Team Shosholoza from South Africa, Britain's TEAMORIGIN, Team New Zealand, United Internet Team Germany and Ayre of Spain.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Alinghi won the America's Cup at its first attempt, beating Team New Zealand 5-0 in Auckland in 2003.
The Swiss brought the trophy - the Auld Mug - back to Europe for the first time in more than 150 years.
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 called Alinghi.

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In brief

Alinghi, run by billionaire Ernesto Bertartelli and backed by Geneva's Société Nautique, won the world's premier sailing prize in July 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 Oracle team, led by software billionaire Larry Ellison, has taken its case to the New York Supreme Court - the sole jurisdiction under Cup rules - stating that Alinghi chose the Club Náutico Español de Vela as the challenger of record to set rules in its favour.

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