Cup organisers put plans for 2009 on hold, but is the Cup match really off asks Matthew Sheahan, or is 2008 on the cards?

America’s Cup organiser ACM has announced that the plans to hold the next event in 2009 have been shelved and the event put on hold.

In a statement released earlier today (Thursday 22 Nov) ACM said, ‘The ongoing uncertainty around the conclusion of the New York court case brought by BMW Oracle Racing (BOR) leaves the organisers no choice but to delay the event, as many indicators demonstrate a lack of viability to stage the event in 2009 to the same standards as the 32nd America’s Cup.’

The announcement may come as a disappointment, but it will not come as a surprise to many of those close to the action. Despite a new boat and a race format being announced and agreed between Alinghi and the Challengers, the ongoing fight between BMW Oracle and Alinghi that has led both sides to court has cost valuable time. With the first Act due to take place in just five months many who had been involved with the previous Acts were expressing serious doubts as to whether a similar event could be arranged in such a short time frame.

As both sides wait for a decision from Judge Cahn, Alinghi is still keen to point the finger at Oracle for the delays, with design team coordinator Grant Simmer accusing Oracle of choosing, ‘to continue to hold the event to ransom by means of their court action.’

Yet, despite the disappointing news, ACM’s statement did appear to clarify its position and that of the Defender based on the outcome of the court case.

‘If the New York Supreme Court rules that CNEV is valid and BOR chooses not to appeal the decision, ACM will endeavour to work with the competitors to adapt the existing rules and regulations and put in place a new framework for an event to take place at a later stage in Valencia.’

‘Should the US Courts rule against CNEV, SNG will accept the Golden Gate Yacht Club Deed of Gift Challenge and meet them in a vessel, possibly a multihull, in accordance with the terms of the Deed of Gift.’

So here’s the twist. In the latter case it would be the Golden Gate YC and Oracle that get to call the tune for the next Cup, the boats and the date. According to the GGYC’s comments earlier in this saga, this could well be next year.

And, with an army of new recruits, surely not everyone in the American flagged team has been busy working on the legal spat, for some, sketching cats, playing with numbers and thinking of the future would be far more fun.

But, with a new class rule, an event and a pile of legal scenarios to go through, has Alinghi had the time or resources to start making similar sketches?

The prospects of a Cup in 2009 have only been put on hold if Alinghi gets its way in the courts. The alternative might force them to come out to play much earlier than that.

The trouble is that this scenario rules out the involvement of existing Challengers, many of who have had their meters running for some time already in preparation for the main event. Within hours of the announcement it was clear that some felt that they had been left in the lurch.

The first objection came from the German team.

“We are extremely disappointed,” said Jochen Schümann, Co-CEO and team leader of United Internet Team Germany. “During the recent weeks, we did our utmost by discussing with all parties to secure the holding of the 33rd America’s Cup in 2009. Unfortunately, we did not succeed. We will keep our Team in Valencia together, to review our strategy and to discuss the latest situation with our business partners.”

Then came comments from the Brits.

“This is a really sad day for the America’s Cup and a bad day for sport,” said said Sir Keith Mills, Team Origin’s team principal. “Disputes like this should not be resolved in a Court of Law. For one team to seek to impose its will on a sporting event by using a lawsuit is reprehensible. For another team to slow the process down is equally damning. The full rejection of the offer from the GGYC to the SNG made last week meant that any chance of an ‘out of court settlement’ appeared to have gone.

“We can only all hope that common sense will prevail and that over the following days the parties will come to their senses and realise that the offer on the table is a good one for all concerned. If that was to pass then we could all get on with making our respective arrangements for an event in Valencia in either 2010 or 2011. If that doesn’t happen we can only surmise that the greed of one side is only matched by the belligerence of the other.”

Don’t touch the dial, it’s not over yet.