Team Origin confirms support for Alinghi's cause. Matthew Sheahan reports
Next week sees the big launch for the British America’s Cup team and with it, confirmation of some of the key team members that have signed on the dotted line. Among them will be some surprises.
But before the Team Origin reveals some of it’s key hirings, syndicate head Sir Keith Mills needed to get something off his chest first. Namely, that of where the team stands in the developing argument between Larry Ellison and Ernesto Bertarelli and the argument over the Protocol for the 33rd America’s Cup.
In a nutshell, Ellison believes that the Protocol, as presented by Alinghi and the Spanish Challenger of Record Club Náutico Español de Vela (CNEV), is grossly one sided and needs to be tweaked and is prepared to go to court to prove it.
Bertarelli on the other hand, claims that having failed to win the Cup on the water, Ellison is trying to get back in the game by some other means. On the face of it a big boys squabble, but the trouble is that the future of the Cup and the future for those on the verge of spending several millions depends on the outcome.
For those serious about taking part in the 33rd America’s Cup, and Team origin is certainly that, there is no time to hang around waiting for an answer – time is very tight indeed.
So, after refusing to take sides since the bickering broke out, Mills has decided to go public.
“ACM ran a fantastic event this Spring, not only from a sports and entertainment point of view but also by setting the standards on a number of non-sports aspects placing the America’s Cup firmly in the 21st century, in amongst the most important sporting competitions in the world today. Alinghi and ACM should be complimented on running an event in Valencia that has had a massively positive impact not only on the America’s Cup but the sport of sailing as a whole,” he says.
“We do not believe that the new Protocol will have a negative impact on the future of the America’s Cup. To the contrary we believe it provides a platform for further growth and some real opportunities for those who decide to challenge.”
No room for doubt on where the team stands then. But why make this announcement now?
One reason is that Mills and his team knows they will be asked to comment on this very issue right from the start and by dealing with the issues now the real deal of announcing the team won’t get lost in the noise of the big boys’ bust up.
But also, perhaps voicing its support for Alinghi’s position will help to hustle the programme along and avoid the risk of the next America’s Cup being stalled by lengthy court proceedings that would put the next Cup in jeopardy and do untold damage to the reputation of a sport that has been frequently tarnished by disputes of this sort in the past.
A press statement from the team drives the point home and reads:
TEAMORIGIN believes the Protocol is good for challengers, especially new teams because:
* Of the introduction of a new America’s Cup Class, a new 90 ft yacht, giving every challenger an equal opportunity to start the design process at the same time.
* It prohibits two-boat testing which will reduce costs. New techniques will be developed to refine existing and new yachts, opening up a level playing field for new challengers.
* It allows for regular official racing to be run in Valencia. Teams may race their opponents in practice whilst simultaneously running parallel hospitality and sponsor programmes.
TEAMORIGIN and the Royal Thames Yacht Club were therefore pleased and confident in becoming a strong challenger and sporting example during the 33rd America’s Cup, and officially challenged Defender Alinghi’s club, the Société Nautique de Genève (SNG), on 23rd July.
TEAMORIGIN is now one of four challengers having joined the Spanish Desafio Español (COR), Team Shosholoza of South Africa and Emirates Team New Zealand.
In all of TEAMORIGIN’s dealings with ACM the event authority has acted quickly and constructively. In particular it:
* Announced the Host City as Valencia within three weeks of becoming the organising authority and set the date for the 33rd America’s Cup for July 2009.
* Invited challengers to participate in a series of meetings to define the new Class Rule, the first of which will be held in mid-September with the final rule being published by 31st October.
* Put in place the three-member Arbitration Panel, two members of which were members of the International Jury of the 32nd America’s Cup.
Unfortunately in late July the GGYC, a challenger of the 31st and 32nd America’s Cup represented by BMW Oracle Racing, disputed the legitimacy of the CNEV’s status as a bone fide yacht club as defined in the America’s Cup Deed of Gift and as a result filed a lawsuit in the New York Supreme Court.
TEAMORIGIN’s position on this is clear. The elements specifically defining a yacht club’s status according to the Deed of Gift are clearly stated: “Any organized Yacht Club of a foreign country, incorporated, patented, or licensed by the legislature, admiralty, or other executive department, having for its annual regatta an ocean water course on the sea, or on an arm of the sea, or one which combines both, shall always be entitled to the right of sailing a match of this Cup?”.
The CNEV is recognised by the Real Federación Español de Vela, the Royal Spanish Sailing Federation (RFEV) and that club will hold a regatta on the sea before the end of 2007.
TEAMORIGIN therefore recognises the legitimacy of the COR and hence the Protocol and is mounting its challenge operations for the 33rd America’s Cup based on this Protocol.
“We accept the validity of the Protocol and believe that it fundamentally allows challenging teams a fair opportunity to compete in the America’s Cup. I urge the GGYC and BMW Oracle Racing to withdraw their lawsuits and spurious challenge, which can only damage the reputation of the America’s Cup. I would like to see BMW Oracle submit a proper challenge alongside the four teams that have already challenged so that we can start competing on the water not the court room,” concludes Sir Keith.
Team Origin may yet have to announce its team members, but there is little doubt that its America’s Cup and the politics that frequently goes with a campaign, has started already.