The big guns may have spoken, but the future of the Cup looks shaky. Matthew Sheahan reports, while PJ Montgomery talks to Butterworth
As the New York court hearing gets closer (22 Oct), any notion that the dispute between Bertarelli and Ellison will be swiftly resolved seems to slide further away. News that the pair had spoken last Thursday had raised hopes that maybe a settlement could be reached, but today (Wednesday) the outlook for the Cup appears less promising after America’s Cup Management issued a statement saying that it might have to consider delaying the 2009 event.
‘As a consequence of the uncertainty and the delays arising from the Golden Gate Yacht Club Law suit in New York, AC Management (ACM) is concerned that the feasibility of organising the next America’s Cup in Valencia in 2009 has been effectively compromised.’ reads the statement.
‘ACM will in the coming days engage in consultations with the Defender, the Challenger of Record, the Competitors and the Spanish Authorities on this specific matter.
ACM is considering all options, including the possibility of postponing the event to a later date.’
Worrying news for the five teams that are both struggling to plan for an event that has yet to declare the details of the new boat, while at the same time trying to anticipate what the 18 month racing schedule, that has yet to be published, might entail.
But delaying the next Cup might not even be an option given Valencia’s bigger project, that of extending the container port, a massive engineering exercise that would involve a land fill up to 1 mile out to sea. It is understood that while the city would be happy to host the next Cup, it needs to get on with the building of this new commercial port and that the Cup would have to be held in 2009.
So maybe ACM’s release is more about preparing for court and being able to demonstrate to the judge that the Bertarelli camp tried everything it could to avoid ending up in litigation. Could the final sentence support this?
‘In the meantime, ACM understands that SNG continues to try to find a resolution of the dispute pending with Golden Gate Yacht Club in New York.’
But even more worrying is the talk that Bertarelli has applied the brakes for the next America’s Cup.
Meanwhile, in an interview with PJ Montgomery, Alinghi’s skipper Brad Butterworth is optimistic that the issue can be resolved before court yet at the same time he appeared deeply critical of Ellison’s position.
“There are five teams out there trying to challenge and one trying to sue the Defender,” he said.
“Sure the Protocol was ambitious. But in my career no one has ever been happy with the Defender.”
Of those five Challengers each have their own issues to deal with, adding to the pressure:
Team Origin – Brand new, and busy setting up
Team New Zealand – Recently lost several key players, chief designer Andy Claughton, tactician Terry Hutchinson and B-boat driver Ben Ainslie
Desafio Espanol – Currently embroiled in the debate between Bertarelli and Ellison over whether their yacht club’s challenge is valid?
Shosholoza – Understood to be short of funds and rumoured to be underwritten by Bertarelli
Team Germany – Bottom of the ‘B’ division last time around, the team has decent funding and ex Alinghi helmsman Jochen Schumann on board, but has a long way to climb.
So as the clock counts down towards court, the pressure builds as the disappointing prospect of an America’s Cup in turmoil starts to take shape.