Oracle duels with Alinghi over yachting rules

Alinghi and Oracle look as though they're on course for a New York court Keystone

A United States court is set to hear arguments in a lawsuit that could determine who sets the rules for the next America’s Cup yachting event in 2009.

This content was published on September 11, 2007 - 12:11

The court set a hearing for October 22 on the suit by the Golden Gate Yacht Club of San Francisco, home of Oracle Racing, against the Swiss holder of the cup Alinghi and the Geneva Nautical Society.

The US syndicate, which is owned by billionaire Larry Ellison, is seeking to replace the Spanish syndicate Desafio as the next “Challenger of Record” or privileged challenger, annulling changes to the size of the boats already agreed by the Swiss and the Spanish.

In a first audience on Monday the judge - Hermann Cahn of the Supreme Court of the State of New York – rejected an Oracle demand filed in July for a rapid examination of the case.

Cahn has asked the two sides to try to find an out-of-court settlement.

Golden Gate has claimed that the Spanish challenge is “fabricated” and is an “invalid contender” because it never held a regatta as stated in the regulations that govern the America’s Cup, the so-called “Deed of Gift”.


This stipulates that the New York court has jurisdiction to settle all disputes in the competition.

Golden Gate said in a statement the Geneva club was seeking to impose an unprecedented one-sided set of rules that unfairly advantage the defender to the detriment of all other competitors.

“We are very pleased with this decision, as we are keen to see this issue properly resolved with a minimum of further delay,” Tom Ehman, head of external affairs the Oracle team commented.

“Our strong preference remains to negotiate a solution. If this is not possible, today’s decision provides for swift resolution through the courts.”

A lawyer representing Alinghi, Hamish Ross, was also satisfied with the judge’s decision.


Ross said that if the matter had not been settled amicably before the date set for the court hearing, the Geneva Nautical Society would present a motion calling for rejection of Oracle’s complaint.

Desafio, based at Club Náutico Español de Vela, signed the protocol for the 33rd America's Cup and became the challenger of record in July moments after Alinghi completed a 5-2 victory over Emirates Team New Zealand in the best-of-nine series in Valencia, Spain.

Golden Gate, which was the challenger of record after Alinghi won its first Cup in 2003, questioned Club Náutico Español de Vela's validity as a legitimate yacht club, saying it was created as a means to challenge and keep the
competition in Valencia.

The Spanish syndicate said it hosted a regatta in Santander, Spain, making it eligible to race for the Cup.

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 Auld Mug back to Europe for the first time in more than 150 years.
This year, Alinghi successfully defended its title, beating Team New Zealand 5-2 in Valencia.

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Planned changes

For the next America's Cup, the yachts are set to be longer (27 metres compared with 24 metres today) and they will have a taller mast (40 metres compared with 33 metres today).

For these new yachts, the crew would have to include 20 or 21 men (17 at present).

According to Alinghi skipper Brad Butterworth, the yachts would be "faster but also more difficult to handle".

Another planned novelty: after the qualifying regattas, Alinghi could reserve the right to take part in the races that eliminate the challengers, the former Louis Vuitton Cup.

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