More success in the courts for US America's Cup team. Is more to follow?

The news that BMW Oracle has won again in the courts on Friday 30 October was another big step forward for the team following the ruling that the rudders on their boat should not be included in the measurement of the load waterline as Alinghi and the SNG had claimed.

Having spent the last couple of days chasing the giant American trimaran up and down San Diego’s coastline, it’s clear to see that the issue of the rudder position is a significant one. Had the ruling gone against BMW Oracle, changing the boat to suit would have been a major issue.

The pair of rudders on BMW Oracle’s trimaran, (the central rudder on the main hull and the central daggerboard have recently been removed in the latest round of drag reducing modifications), are located on each of the floats and positioned abaft the transom of the central hull which is 90ft long on the waterline, the maximum allowed. The floats barely touch the water when at rest, particularly at the stern, so they are well inside the 90ft LWL dimension unless that is, the rudders were counted as the aftermost extreme.

In its case to the courts, the American team maintained that this is not how Cup boats have ever been measured before and is not the intention in the Deed of Gift. The court agreed.

The result is huge relief for the team, when you see the boat in the flesh and try to visualise where the rudders would have to be to keep them within the 90ft LWL dimension of the central hull, moving them forwards is barely an option.

But the ruling is also important in that it marks another step forward in the attempt to level the playing field. Alinghi and the SNG have lost on virtually all the battles in court and with it have lost several of the advantages that they had sought to exploit. But the hurt hasn’t stopped yet.

On Wednesday 4 Nov, several remaining outstanding technical issues will be addressed, namely:

1) the use of moveable water ballast in the measurement of LWL

2) whether it is safe to race off Valencia, Spain, in February 2010 (the date of the 33rd Match)

3) whether racing and other rules can be changed after the Notice of Race is issued

4) the timing of the International Jury being empanelled for an America’s Cup Match

5) whether the agreement between the International Sailing Federation and SNG leaves this Jury unencumbered to be independent and objective.

But instead of listening to the representations of lawyers alone, Justice Kornreich has asked that three previous America’s Cup jurors present and explain the issues at stake. The Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) will appoint one expert, rumoured to be Bryan Willis, the Soceite Nautique Geneve (SNG) will appoint another, as yet unknown and those two will appoint a third.

Of the four issues at stake, number 1 could be an issue for Alinghi if the ruling says that they have to measure with ballast on board. My guess would be that Alinghi 5 measures 90ft on the waterline without ballast and considerably more with it, increasing the boat’s waterline length.

Issue 5 is also a very important one and one that has been central to BMW Oracle and the GGYC’s argument that it’s not reasonable to have race officials appointed by and accountable to one of the teams. It’s difficult to see how three previous America’s Cup jurors would agree to this.

As the Cup match date approaches, the pressure is starting to pile on. But whether you’re excited or turned off by the shoreside and court room posturing one thing is for sure, the two boats that have been built and launched are two of the most extraordinary racing craft of our time. Having now seen both of them up close and going through their paces, breakdowns and all, I for one am extremely excited about the prospect of these two going head to head. The funny thing is, so too are both teams, who despite the bitter court room wranglings are both desperate to get racing in February.

The 33rd America’s Cup will be remembered for the long and tortuous court room battles, but it will also be remembered for producing two of the most extreme vessels the event has ever seen.

So forget the court issues if it upsets you and just look forward to seeing these two beasts in action because the money, time, effort and sheer creativity that has gone into creating both of these outrageously powerful boats is unlikely to be repeated for many years.