The venue, the location and the thorn in Bertarelli's side, Matthew Sheahan reports from Valencia on the latest big announcement
The 33rd America’s Cup will be held in Valencia in 2009 using the new AC class boats, 90ft monohulls.
Flanked by several political figures at a packed press conference in Valencia, Alinghi head Ernesto Bertarelli put further flesh on the bone as he revealed the plans for the 33rd America’s Cup. But while this put an end to several weeks of speculation, Bertarelli’s comments on Larry Ellison’s objection to the new Protocol took many by surprise and confirmed how serious the rift between these two teams has become.
But first the new facts.
Valencia will continue to host the America’s Cup. Next year will see two Acts, the first of which will be held during the spring in Valencia, the second will take place in the autumn and will be at a European location that is yet to be decided.
Spain has thrown it’s financial weight behind the event once again with what it’s politicians described as a Euro 150 million ‘fee’ to host the Cup.
The New Boats
The current Version 5 AC boats will be used for these two events and Alinghi will compete in both.
The new class rule will be announced by the end of October this year. Teams will be able to build two boats but only one from each team is allowed to be used at any one time by any team. According to Bertarelli this was an attempt to reduce the cost of a campaign.
“The fun is racing. Like in Formula 1, our intent is to reduce the amount of time we spend wasting money going around the track without a competitive gain,” he said. “Because this rule will apply to Alinghi as well, Alinghi will have to participate in the Challenger series. Otherwise, if we cannot race other vessels we do not have the opportunity to test our boat against other teams.
“We also commit that if we are eliminated in the Challengers series we will lose that right and will not have the opportunity to race anyone thereafter.”
The Teams So Far
Also announced today was the news that Team New Zealand has thrown its weight behind the current Protocol and the 33rd event by formally challenging. The move brings to four the number of Challengers. The other three are Desafio Espanol, Team Shosholoza and the British Team Origin.
With the dates and venue now confirmed, the acceptance of a big team would appear to put further pressure on Larry Ellison and his campaign to have the current Protocol modified. Here, Bertarelli left little to the imagination when he aired his views on the current state of affairs following the legal proceedings that have been started by the Golden Gate Yacht Club, the club that represents Ellison’s challenge.
“It seems like, having failed to win on the water twice and barely finishing fifth in the last competition, Oracle Racing has decided to bring the dispute into court hoping to win what they were not able to do on the water. This is a great disappointment to Alinghi and a great disappointment to Societe Nautique de Geneve,” he said. “Oracle Racing Team has brought forward a challenge to the SNG whereby their intent if they win in court, is to race exclusively, with no other competitor but Alinghi, in a 90ft multihull. This is clearly unacceptable.
“We have submitted this dispute to our independent arbitration panel and we hope to have the resolution soon.
“It seems that Larry Ellison’s strategy is one of trying to make the game as expensive as possible. He has launched a costly and aggressive PR campaign and against Alinghi and Desafio Espanol.
“He has launched a costly lawsuit in New York.
“He has launched an expensive multihull programme for 2008, when he’s complaining that we are not giving enough time to the competitors in announcing a class rule by October, he then pretends to give SNG until July 2008 and race in a 90ft multihull, which we have no interest in.
“The most damaging thing is that he has created insecurity and is preventing competitors, including Alinghi from being able to secure sponsorship. He clearly is damaging the America’s Cup brand.”
Strong stuff, but there was more to come, especially when he was asked what he would do if Ellison’s efforts in the court succeeded.
“Team Alinghi is not interested in Larry Ellison’s multihull race. We are sportsmen, we are not lawyers, we are sailors, we are not corporate raiders. What we like to do is to go sailing. Fortunately I have found a few teams to go sailing with.
“We don’t have any intent of losing. Today is a day of talking about sports, talking about friendship, talking about trust and commitment to a fantastic event that does not need this, excuse the expression, bullshit.”
A response that appeared to pull the plug on the Q&A session of a press conference that had only just got underway. Despite the wide show of hands for questions, the conference was wrapped up leaving a stunned and confused audience.
Whatever you may think of the struggle, if nothing else, the Cup never fails to deliver a surprise.
The plot so far – and related stories
New Class for the 33rd America’s Cup – The start of the row as Alinghi reveals the new Protocol as agreed with a Spanish yacht club that is barely any older
Golden Gate Yacht Club question validity – The yacht club representing BMW Oracle Racing’s challenge dispute the validity and offer their own, alternative challenge
The Big Snub – Golden Gate Yacht Club Challenge ignored yet a challenge from the South African Team Shosholoza is accepted
The Cup Heads for Court – Golden Gate Yacht Club starts legal proceedings to establish whether Spanish Challenge is valid
British Challenge Accepted – More bad news for Ellison as the British team confirms its support for the new Protocol
Coutts to Head BMW Oracle – Ellison and Coutts bring an end to the speculation and fly into Valencia just hours before the big announcement to confirm that the four times America’s Cup winner is to lead Ellison’s team. But this is only part of the issue as the pair express their deep concern for the future of the event.