Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bertarelli on the America's Cup

Ernesto Bertarelli, Alinghi team president (Photo credit: Carlo Borlenghi/Alinghi)
Bertarelli, who still does not rule out a compromise with BMW Oracle, spoke last week with Christopher Clarey of the International Herald Tribune from Switzerland and followed up on Tuesday. Excerpts from those interviews:

IHT: Are you surprised that Larry Ellison and BMW Oracle have declined to drop the lawsuit and refused to meet your Dec. 15 deadline for entering the next Cup?

BERTARELLI: I'm disappointed. Larry Ellison's argument is to say that the event is a phony and not fair and that the rules are not acceptable. Nevertheless, the rules are acceptable to 19 teams, some of which have had a pedigree in the America's Cup much superior to his team. This is the most teams we've ever had, so we must have done something right in promoting the event and going about our vision for the America's Cup and making sure there's a lot of interest. He's a little bit singled out at this stage.

IHT: At this stage, what do you believe are his motivations?
BERTARELLI: I think he wants to win the Cup without having to race the other challengers on the water.

IHT: You are only asking for a €50,000 deposit for the 2010 Cup. Obviously, there's no guarantee that some of these teams that have entered are going to make it to the starting line.

The entry conditions are not substantially different to the previous edition. As for the number of teams, even if a few fall out, it's plenty to have an amazing America's Cup. Last time we had 11 challengers. All these teams this time are carefully considered and pretty serious. The other things we tried to do - and possibly it's something not to the taste of Larry's portfolio - is we tried to reduce the cost of competing significantly and obviously that opens up the competition quite a bit because all of the sudden you don't need a budget north of $70 million to participate. I reckon this time with $20 million to $30 million you can win the America's Cup. Last time when you were asking me the same question, I was saying anything south of $60 million or $70 million would not give you a chance. So obviously if you have all the resources of this world, you want to make the competition as expensive as possible. That's maybe what Larry does not like in the current rules. To qualify for the final of the Cup, he will have to race 18 challengers. This is excellent for the sport to have so many teams from so many countries.

IHT: He has already launched his 90-foot (or 27.4-meter) trimaran in anticipation of a deed-of-gift match next year and has been testing it extensively and training his crew on it. You are still building your big multihull. What's the status of it?

We have done enough to be ready within the time that we would have in case Larry was to win in court, but we don't have a boat that is finished. We just try to spend as little as possible. And so we don't have a boat that could sail tomorrow morning. We would need to spend quite a bit more to get ready. My hope is not to have to launch the multihull. I just don't understand where he's going with his strategy. He can't be arguing that the rules that 19 teams have agreed on are not good enough for him. And wanting to race the defender in a deed of gift match where the rules are dictated by the defender! If you know the history of the America's Cup, the 150 years of the New York Yacht Club's stewardship of the Cup shows that it's very hard for a challenger to win under the deed of gift match rules. So I really don't see his plan if it's not one of stopping the Cup as long as possible or creating as much trouble as possible.
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