World Yacht Race Forum spawned three significant steps towards AC33 – without going to court

Less than a week before the disputed site for the next America’s Cup, Ras Al Khaimar was thrown out by the New York Courts, the beaming smiles and the warm handshakes between two apparent adversaries presented a confusing picture to those who have followed the long and bitter America’s Cup dispute.

While it is no secret that Cup skippers, Russell Coutts and Brad Butterworth have been close friends for many years and have formed previously one of the most successful partnerships in America’s Cup history, the 18 month long argument has at times surely plumbed such depths as to challenge even the strongest of comradeships.

Yet, come the headline billing at the World Yacht Racing Conference where the pair were due to meet and explain their vision for the future of the America’s Cup, peace appeared to break out from the start.
The meeting kicked off with each skipper making a presentation of both the state of their campaigns and their vision for future America’s Cups in which each took care to praise the other’s best efforts in creating two of the world’s most extreme and impressive multihulls.
To those that know the pair well, the two man show was just like the old days when both were playing for the same side. Coutts the pensive intellectual, Butterworth the more casual happy go lucky pro sailor. Each remained in character throughout the presentation.

But behind the scenes there are still some serious issues lurking and despite the light-hearted banter, both sides were forced to confirm several fundamental and serious points.

First up was the confirmation that, subject to the final court ruling on an appeal over the Ras Al Khaimah venue, they were both ready.
“We will definitely be ready to race in February,” said Coutts. “If there was a venue change at this stage we’d have to look at when we could get to the new venue. Our position hasn’t changed, we want to race for the Cup as soon as we can.”

And Alinghi?

“Yes, we’ve got both plans, we’re ready to go and feel the same as BMW Oracle, we want to get going,” said Butterworth.

Secondly, both sides agreed that disputes during the event could be resolved by the five newly appointed ISAF Jury members, although this did come with conditions, in particular the letter of agreement between ISAF and SNG (Alinghi’s yacht club) in which the issue of the ISAF Jury’s complete independence was still in dispute.

“If we can use a jury to answer open questions that still need to be resolved then there’s absolutely no reason why either of the teams would need to go back to court,” explained Coutts.

“Does that make sense to you Brad?” asked the host of the session Richard Simmonds.

“Yes it does,” came the reply, shortly before spontaneous audience applause.

The third confirmation was that, if the 33rd America’s Cup was to be delayed, both Alinghi and BMW Oracle Racing would be prepared to consider the outline for the 34th America’s Cup, thereby giving future challengers the ability to prepare for the next event before the results of this one had been decided.

While the 33rd Match will leave one of the teams holding the Cup and hosting the 34th, neither knows who it will be, presenting a unique opportunity to prepare for the 34th.

“It makes perfect sense,” agreed Coutts.

“I’m a big fan of planning for the future and getting the stake holders involved is very important,” confirmed Butterworth.

Three small steps do not make an America’s Cup, but after 18 months of acrimony, any agreement is a move in the right direction and proof that the cause was not totally lost and that peace could break out in the America’s Cup.