A New York Judge has ruled that the Spanish challenge was invalid. Where to now for the Cup? Matthew Sheahan reports

The Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) has won its case against the Defender’s yacht club Societe Nautique Geneve (SNG), in which the validity of the Spanish Challenger of record was disputed. The Defenders Alinghi are now forced to negotiate the terms of the next America’s Cup with the GGYC, represented by BMW Oracle.

In finding that the Spanish Challenger of record was invalid, Judge Cahn’s ruling means that the next valid challenge is the one that has to now be accepted – namely, the challenge from the GGYC, represented by BMW Oracle. The American team, funded by Larry Ellison and run by Russell Coutts, now finds itself in familiar territory as Challenger of Record for the second time and facing Alinghi as Defender once more.

“We are very pleased by the decision as it enables everyone to focus on getting the Cup back on track quickly,” said Russell Coutts, CEO of the club’s BMW ORACLE Racing team.

While the result handed down might have been a surprise, Coutts’ team had a few more to hand out.

In a statement issued by the GGYC Coutts said that the club; ‘Wanted to see a conventional America’s Cup regatta in Valencia and is planning to speak with Alinghi as soon as possible to organize a meeting seeking a mutual consent challenge.

GGYC’s first preferences would be to:

1. Seek to agree rules with all competitors along the lines of the October 17 “nine points” compromise proposal and race a conventional America’s Cup competition in Valencia in 2009.

2. If a Deed of Gift challenge went ahead, the club would seek to race under the AC90 monohull rule already published. If Alinghi did not agree to that, in multi-hulls.

3. In all scenarios, GGYC would seek by mutual consent to have a
Challenger Selection Series with as many challengers as possible.

“We will immediately endeavour to meet with the other challengers to mutually agree a fair set of rules negotiated with all the other teams,” Coutts said.

“We will be very happy if we can put the last few months behind us and get on with sailing.”

As well as sounding like an oxymoron, the team’s wish to participate in a ‘conventional Cup’ and to see, ‘as many challengers as possible’ participate will have come as a surprise to those that were expecting a one-on-one slog between a pair of 90ft catamarans in 2008.

On the face of it you might have thought that such news would have come as a relief to the Alinghi team and its yacht club. Yet their brief press release suggested otherwise, stating that the result was, ‘a disappointment to the Société Nautique de Genève (SNG), AC Management (ACM), Alinghi and the seven entered Challengers affected by the outcome.’

‘There will now be a thorough review of the Judge’s decision and an analysis of the various options offered by the Deed of Gift,’ continued the statement.

“We are disappointed that a technicality made the CNEV invalid and we are now looking forward to discussions with the Golden Gate Yacht Club to keep the America’s Cup functioning,” said Ernesto Bertarelli, President of Alinghi.

The problem for Bertarelli’s team is that, having postponed the Cup in 2009, it now has to negotiate with a team that is keen to get on with the show as planned. Some believe that the 2009 schedule was ambitious even if things had worked out right from the start.

Oracle might have taken the issue to court, but no doubt it will claim that it was only a few days ago that its offer to settle was rejected. At that point the Cup was still on. Surely things can’t have changed that much since then?

The court case may be over, but the blame game continues.