Tom Ehman, Hamish Ross and Brad Butterworth talk to PJ Montgomery, but are they playing the waiting game or planning to settle asks Matthew Sheahan
“I think he felt it was a frivolous waste of his time,” said Alinghi skipper Brad Butterworth when asked what he thought the judge had made of the hearing between Alinghi and Oracle last week.
As for his own view, “There’s only one team that’s got a big gripe and they should get over it,” he said.
On the other side of the fence, Tom Ehman for Oracle was equally frank about a stalemate situation that has seen the dispute enter the courts.
“I think the court will rule in our favour. It’s a sham yacht club,” he said referring to the Club Náutico Español de Vela, the club at the centre of the dispute.
“All they have done is challenged, having been organised in the days before Alinghi won the Cup, and turned over all the decisions to Alinghi. That’s not correct. No one is happy about it, but fortunately we have the resources to challenge it.
“Privately the Challengers are very pleased with what we are doing and that we’re trying to create a level playing field.”
But the situation is more serious than either team is letting on.
Having made their cases in court, the judge has now said that he will come back with a ruling. Surely all the teams can do now is sit back and wait? No.
When the verdict is given, there will surely be a loser. Despite the many theories that abound at present, no one can say with any certainty which way the decision will fall. But the stakes still remain very high. If Alinghi lose, the chances are that the Protocol will need to be renegotiated, a process that could take months which would most likely wipe out the possibility of the next Cup taking place in 2009.
If BMW Oracle lose, it’s difficult to see that the team would be allowed to compete in the next Cup, having caused the Cup holders so much trouble and expense. In this instance the Cup would continue along the Alinghi plan and would have changed fundamentally in its nature from being an event driven by Challengers to an event controlled by the Defender.
So if either team has any doubts about its chances of winning and really want to take part in the next event, now is the time to find some common ground, before the judge rules.
For Oracle, the clock would appear to be ticking slightly faster. Having been accused of shifting the goal posts in their argument over the last few months, their latest big beef is over not being able to see what is in store for the new design. How could they possibly commit to the next Cup if they don’t know what they need to build, they argue.
But on Wednesday (Oct 31) the final version of the new design rule for the new boat will be presented to the Challengers that have already signed up. Presumably, if and when the rule is made public (as pervious versions of the AC rule have been), Oracle risks losing its bargaining chip.
Meanwhile, the current Challengers are surely left none the wiser as to when their campaign really starts but would doubtless hope that the increased pressure this week may force a settlement to get the 33rd America’s Cup back on track.
PODCAST SPECIAL –
Make sure you listen to our latest podcast in which Tom Ehman, Hamish Ross and Brad Butterworth talk to PJ Montgomery about the issues, the state of play and the future of the America’s Cup in the wake of the court hearing last week.