Monday, November 2, 2009

RAK out, Valencia next up

By Paul Lewis -

BMW Oracle have taken what could be a large step towards capturing the America's Cup in February.

It's too early, of course, to proclaim a winner in anything.

Anyone who thinks court action won't happen after the big boat challenge involving a huge catamaran (Alinghi) and a giant trimaran (Oracle) should go and stand on a street corner, harnessing their optimism, hold their hand out and expect diamonds to fall into it.

But the American syndicate may have the upper hand in the tedious, protracted, two-year legal struggle after the New York Supreme Court last week shot down Alinghi's choice of venue - the tiny emirate of Ras al-Khaimah, near Dubai.

Alinghi, amid glorious fanfare, including pictures of helicoptering their catamaran out of a Swiss lake to start the long journey to Ras al-Khaimah, chose the venue instead of Valencia - site of the 32nd America's Cup challenge where Alinghi beat Emirates Team New Zealand to retain the Cup.

The cynics say Alinghi boss and billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli chose RAK because of potential business links but, if so, he grossly under-estimated the political backwash. Iran - whose troublesome leadership is making nuclear missile noises, upsetting the US and Israel - is just 30 nautical miles from the emirate.

The judge who heard Oracle's contention that Ras al-Khaimah should not be the venue, Shirley Kornreich, said she did not take Oracle's security concerns into account and ruled solely on the America's Cup Deed of Gift.

Supreme Court judges are part of the political system in the US - elected for their terms - and Kornreich is Jewish and a member of a Jewish legal fraternity.

Larry Ellison, the billionaire head of BMW Oracle is also Jewish.

Anyone with an Israeli passport or with a stamp in their passport showing they have been there is not allowed entry to Ras al-Khaimah, according to Oracle's contentions.

So it would be naive to think that, while not crediting them publicly, any judge would not have in mind security and political concerns. The Appeal Court is also part of the political system and Alinghi have so far intimated they will not appeal.

What that means is that the venue for the 32nd America's Cup regatta - Valencia in Spain - shapes now as the most likely port for the big boat challenge.

The time to build the infrastructure for a regatta probably predicates against a new venue and, as Emirates Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton said: "They [Alinghi] got a pretty strict directive re Valencia and I don't think they will appeal."

Alinghi could opt for a new venue in the Southern Hemisphere but that could contain more legal hooks. Read more...