Monday, January 18, 2010

Alinghi refuses to sign....

(Photo credit: George Johns / Alinghi)
The seemingly endless legal battle over the 33rd America's Cup looked set to continue today after Alinghi refused to sign a deal it negotiated with challenger Oracle in Singapore last week.

Oracle had offered to drop its latest legal action against Alinghi if the Swiss defender signed the deal by 1800 GMT on Monday - but Alinghi refused.

"It isn't possible to negotiate under the threat of a lawsuit," an Alinghi spokeswoman said in a statement after the deadline has based.

Oracle last week asked the Supreme Court of the State of New York to rule on whether Alinghi had infringed nationality rules by allegedly using US-made sails for its yacht, which is to face the US challenger in a duel to decide the America's Cup in Spain next month.

Alinghi has said the sails are made in Switzerland.

Oracle's legal action came as the two sides reached a tentative deal on the dispute in Singapore which it said would have settled "all the remaining issues" over the Cup and postponed the event by one month until March 8.

But it alleged Alinghi "refused to sign".

In a letter released early today, Oracle, which is representing the Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) of San Francisco, said it would drop all legal action against Alinghi if the Swiss syndicate signs the Singapore deal by 1800 GMT on Monday.

Alinghi on Sunday charged that Oracle's "representatives clearly bear the substantial responsibility" for the failure of the negotiations in Singapore.

"While Alinghi representatives were acting in good faith in Singapore, GGYC lawyers filed a factually and legally baseless motion" with the New York court "on a topic that was a subject of the negotiations", it said in a letter to the GGYC.

The two bitter rivals are due to face off in a best-of-three event from February 8 in the Spanish port of Valencia to decide the 33rd edition of yachting's most prestigious event.

Under the Deed of Gift, the 19th-century rules that govern the oldest competition in international sport, the participating vessels must be constructed in the country where the sailing club which they represent is located, which in Alinghi's case is Switzerland.

Alinghi's owner, Swiss biotech billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli, has said the sails for Alinghi's catamaran were made in Villeneuve, Switzerland.

Oracle alleged they were made in the US state of Nevada and were therefore "illegal".

Oracle skipper Russell Coutts said the US team is prepared to give Alinghi "several weeks" to change the sails if the New York court rules in its favour on the issue.

If the court does not make a decision before February 8, Oracle would take part in the competition under protest and the result could be overturned, the New Zealander told AFP in a telephone interview on Sunday.

Oracle and Alinghi have been arguing over the rules of the America's Cup in court since the Swiss syndicate won the last edition in Valencia in 2007.

The New York court ruled in April that the Cup should be settled by a one-on-one multihull duel between the two sides next February instead of the traditional fully-fledged regatta involving several teams.