Oracle CEO Russell Coutts explains their side of the coin. Matthew Sheahan reports 4/10/07
Is Ellison really the aggressor in a mounting dispute that threatens to stall the America’s Cup? On the face of it and with five teams signed up for the next Cup, many see the American team’s attitude as being obstructive. Yet resorting to the courts was always a last option for Ellison’s team contrary to the popular perception that BMW Oracle were happy to drive the issue into litigation.
But in a ‘must listen’ interview with PJ Montgomery, BMW Oracle Racing CEO Russell Coutts sets out his team’s side of the story and continues to ask Alinghi to meet face to face.
Here are some of his key points
“Alinghi are trying to make this a personality clash, it’s not,” he says. “The issue is the rules that Alinghi have created for the event, a one sided set of rules that heavily bias the event towards them.”
“What we’re trying to debate is the issues, the rules. It’s about going back to a set of rules like last time that produced such a good event,”he continues.
So what does Oracle want?
“The first thing is we want a neutral set of umpires and race officials. I think pretty much everyone in any sporting competition would say that that is a fair request.”
“The second thing is that we don’t want the Defender to be able to change the rules during the series as and when they want to. We think that all the participants that enter the event should have their say.”
Is a settlement possible?
“We’ve been requesting a mediation for some time. We would settle this in five minutes if Alinghi would agree to go back to a fair set of rules like the last time.
“We have suggested a number of other mediators. Other teams have suggested potential mediators which we have accepted, but Alinghi haven’t.
“We are trying to find a way to sit down face to face and negotiate a solution, but so far Alinghi have resisted that.”
Is there light at the end of the tunnel?
“The solution is very simple. We’ve got to sit down face to face and resolve the issues. I’m hopeful that Alinghi will see the light and agree to meet.”
Meanwhile, the pressure on ACM is building as other Challengers start to speak out. On hearing the news of a potential delay or postponement, the new Head of Team Jochen Schümann Team Germany was quick to respond.
“We have accepted the challenge to race in a new boat class, the AC90 class, in the summer of 2009 in Valencia,” he said. “Our new design team is forming within the next few days at the team base in Valencia in order to design the first 90ft America’s Cup Yacht according to the new rules and to then build it in Germany.”
“Team Germany registered on the basis of the recent protocol in July 2007, which was concluded between the Yacht Club Societe Nautique Geneve (SNG) representing Alinghi and the Spanish yacht club CNEV. Michael Scheeren, CEO of the German Challenge: “We are expecting more protocol details from the America’s Cup Management in the next couple of days. We are prepared to accept changes. Everybody has to aim at the creation of attractive rules for all participating teams and sailing fans.”
And while Alinghi seem happy to play hard to get with BMW Oracle, Schümann takes a more conciliatory approach.
“Despite the civil law suit of the Golden Gate Yacht Club and BMW Oracle Racing against Alinghi, Team Germany supports all attempts to involve BMW Oracle Racing in the existing circle of challengers. Schümann: “The situation of a possible postponement for the planned 33. America’s Cup in 2009 would harm the sport and its image worldwide. We are supporting all attempts of an amicable arrangement.”
It seems that the excitement of the cut and thrust of the close racing during the most recent America’s Cup has allowed us to forget that the Cup is also about world championship style brinksmanship and tough talk.
Make sure you listen to the full interview with Russell Coutts.
Click here to listen to the interview with Alinghi’s skipper Brad Butterworth.