Saturday, December 29, 2007

What happens if Ernesto declines?

It's crunch time. Apart from curious attempts by Alinghi lawyers to protest Justice Cahn's ruling in the New York Supreme Court (NYSC) that Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) is the official challenger for the 33rd Edition of the America's Cup, we are approaching high noon. Gunfight at the OK corral. Actually, for Ernesto (Bertarelli, SUI), it's more like armageddon.

Unless the New York Supreme Court goes bananas, which is unlikely, Ernesto must face GGYC on the water, in a multihull, on the date the NYSC decrees.

Then it's a huge mano-a-mano contest, at great speed and with great skill, pitching a skipper who doesn't love multihulls, Alinghi's Brad Butterworth (NZL), against a skipper who does, Oracle's Russell Coutts (NZL).

If this goes to the water, we hope the ultimate victor will restore the trust, credibility and faith that all of us have in America's Cup (which is what future AC sponsors also desperately need to have their goals and ambitions approved by their boards and shareholders).

Our hope is that the victors will restore an America's Cup America's Cup.

But if Ernesto declines the contest, what happens?

Ernesto is a proud, arrogant and pathologically determined man, but even the pathologically-challenged have their limits.

Ernesto has run off most sponsors, including the great and good Louis Vuitton; he has abused Spain and Valencia; he has run up a huge tab with Team New Zealand (which he must pay if AC33 is delayed); he has insulted every traditional AC classicist on the planet with his manipulation of the Deed of Gift; and for a couple of months, he has hidden himself from view.

Be that as it may.

Ernesto will face the music, pretty soon.

Nobody is discussing it, nobody is thinking about it, but given his pathology and his functional inability to attract life-giving, life-breathing and life-sustaining sponsors, what happens if Ernesto stands down?

What happens if he declines the challenge?

What happens if he decamps, protects his resources (in order to refresh and recharge), and then returns as a challenger normale whenever the real America's Cup resumes?

What happens if Ernesto does that?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Look, it's about money

Money may assuredly sink America's Cup. And I agree with the great gentleman journalist of AC, Mr. Bob Fisher. It shouldn't be about money.

But frankly, money is what keeps AC afloat, just as it keeps every other sporting event on the planet afloat.

Just choose the sport.

It would be nice if there were . . . well . . . billionaires . . . who could dig deeply into their pockets . . . to fund a magnificent sporting event for their elevation and our enjoyment.

The sad fact is, even those . . . billionaires . . . like Ernesto and Larry . . . need help.

All of us, for our pleasure, have become extraordinarily dependent on Louis Vuitton, UBS, BTInfonet, Audemars Piguet, BMW, Oracle, Allianz, Emirates Airlines, Toyota, Estrella Damm, not to mention Prada and Iberdrola, just to name a few.

And it's not enough that the corporate world has to pitch in to make AC happen. But so has Valencia and governmental authorities in Spain. Not to mention Emirates Team New Zealand's friendly sponsor, New Zealand. The country.

Sailors manned boats. But those sponsors financed the great AC32 event we all enjoyed.

While everyone debates protocols, rules, complaints, amicus briefs. And as bloggers blog. And as sailors puff and luff. And as tough, committed partisans like Tom Ehman (USA) and Russell Coutts (NZL) and Brad Butterworth (NZL) and Tom Schnackenberg (NZL) and their teams scurry from meeting to meeting and log in countless hours on conference calls and cellphones . . . all the rest of us simply observe, comment, and freely adjudicate our opinions.

We have the right to do that, and we do.

That's fine.

But over there, on the other side, are the people who write the checks. Bob Fisher, I'm sure, respects them and wishes they didn't exist. But there they are. They have the resources. They love the sport. They love what was presented to them. They are still committed. They are waiting. But the ink in their pens has run dry.

If they are not important, fine. Let's go and make AC33 happen without them. Let's show them!

But a real, solid AC33 isn't going to happen without them. That's obvious.

And the fact of the matter is, unless the AC community clears the decks, acts sane, moves forward, works together, becomes one together, and creates a workable AC33 -- a very realistic and workable AC33, free from controversy and cant -- then AC34 is going to be an equally big, sloppy, ugly mess, just like this one.

There isn't a chief marketing officer, a CEO, or a Board of Directors, anywhere on the planet, who will put a penny into AC33, whatever happens. That's just a big, fat, plain fact.

In today's world AC33 would have to be the biggest, riskiest promotional investment on the planet. Bar none.

And frankly, at this point, it would be very difficult to get any sane, reasonable board to approve any kind of investment, either, in AC34, if this keeps up.

As if you hadn't noticed, sponsors have left the stage.

Like boats that were near you in the water, just a moment ago, they are now long gone. What you now see around you is a big, black, threateningly ugly cloud. It's the harbinger of a storm that could last five years, unless we do something.

Money may not relate to the purity of the event. I'm with you on that.

But money matters as to whether the event actually happens or not.

Did you look? AC33 ain't happening.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's still going to be multihulls

Ernesto is crafty. He announces his vision and enlists the support of every vested interest in America's Cup to discuss the Protocol of the Future.

We admired that (see previous post).

Fortunately, he invites the involvement of the New York Yacht Club (NYYC), without whom any AC discussion is irrelevant. NYYC agrees. Wouldn't you agree? Of course you would. This is their baby. NYYC adds huge cautionary remarks.

In his last paragraph, Ernesto subtly links future protocol discussions with the multihull competition. Do this, he says, or we race multihulls.

Wait a minute, says Tom Ehman (USA), spokesperson of BMW Oracle, forget the future. Think about now. We still have AC33 to deal with. So exactly what's it going to be? 90-foot boats? Multihulls? What?

Larry Ellison (USA), chief of BMW Oracle, following appeals by Tom Ehman and those who attended meetings with Alinghi this week, puts pen to paper and asks Ernesto, fairly and reasonably, the same questions.

Well, the reality is, unless Ernesto can pull an underwriting sponsor for AC33 out of the sailbag, it's going to be multihulls. He can't afford anything else.

Ernesto, probably, will wait until the last yawning moment, just before Judge Cahn's announcement of the new timetable, or immediately after, to confirm that it's all multihulls, all the way, and it's going to be in Valencia in 2009. And by the way, it's not my fault, he will say. I promised you the future. You couldn't make it happen. So we race multihulls. Don't blame me.

If somebody said, let's forget that, let's race the old Version 5 boats and have a great regatta (which actually is a fine idea), there's still that nagging problem for Ernesto, no sponsor.

So, build those multihulls.

P.S. Ernesto is getting hammered for proposing his Protocol of the Future. But how could that be worse than corrupting an old protocol to govern an America's Cup event it could never possibly support?

Something had to give.

The solid guarantee in all of this is NYYC's involvement, and the involvement of all previous trustees. All of us have to trust them to protect America's Cup. Even if some of us accept that a lot of what Ernesto says (about planning, sponsors, timetables, venues, costs) makes sense.

Like it or not.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Congratulations, Ernesto

A contemplative Ernesto
by Alinghi's talented
Ivo Rovira

We salute Ernesto.

We hope that his initiative, Larry Ellison's response and goodwill, and the good offices of the New York Yacht Club can come together and work together to achieve what everyone on the planet wants -- including Brad Butterworth and Russell Coutts, as well as every other skipper, team and nominating club.

And that's a fabulous America's Cup 33, one that looks to the past, and to the future, and creates an even greater event than AC32, which everyone loved.

We hope the dates being contemplated for the event are sooner, rather than later. Obviously, 2009 would be perfect.

We hope this reconciliation will attract the attention (and goodwill) of sponsors who may finally see way to become involved in America's Cup for the first time, or to renew their commitment, or to return to the event.

Maybe we are asking too much. But Ernesto has given a lot.

Let's give him a chance.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

It's all about money

There isn't going to be a Challenger series.

There is going to be a Deed of Gift race.

It doesn't have anything to do with Ernesto (Bertarelli, SUI). America's Cup Management (ACM). Or Société Nautique de Genève (SNG). It doesn't have anything to do with Justice Cahn, either. Or Golden Gate Yacht Club. Or Larry Ellison (USA). Or any of them.

Except, of course, all of them, indirectly.

Even if Ernesto desperately wanted to compete as Defender in a conventional, re-negotiated Challenger-driven America's Cup in 2009, there is one huge, enormous piece missing.

An underwriting sponsor for the Challenger series.

With Louis Vuitton's departure and Ernesto's hubris/arrogance/anger (pick one), nobody has picked up the slack and nobody we know is waiting in the wings to write big checks.

If Ernesto had someone ready to invest in a Challenger series, believe me, it would be all over the planet and we would certainly know about it by now. But it ain't. And we don't. And unless Ernesto has the world's greatest surprise tucked away in his sail bag (like Rolex or Nestlé or Swiss Army or anybody, for that matter), we aren't likely to hear anything about an underwriting sponsor for a Challenger series for America's Cup 2009, anytime soon.

Ernesto will wait until the last yawning moment, defined probably by the timetable of the New York Supreme Court, then accede (loudly/aggressively/competitively/angrily/blamingly, pick one) to a Deed of Gift competition with BMW Oracle (USA).

Even if he signed a major sponsor tomorrow, which is unlikely, that sponsor and their promotional agencies would barely have time to organize the investment and design the program before the Summer of 2009.

Already, the promotional commitments of major corporations for 2008 have been completed.

That happened early this year, if not in the Autumn of 2006. The earliest any corporate planners could get any kind of conceptual program together to secure board approval for the investment would be late Spring 2008, if not post-Summer 2008.

There's just not enough time to make it happen.

Which begs some inevitable questions.

Did Ernesto actively seek sponsorship and underwriting? Or did he ignore it? Is this something he doesn't like to do and, in fact, cannot do?

Remember, he inherited Louis Vuitton.

And his humility (sic) isn't the kind of thing that can easily play second fiddle to the emotions and ambitions of a major corporate underwriter. You have to make corporate entities feel like the giants they believe themselves to be.

This would be extraordinarily difficult for Ernesto. Remember, he is the tall tree, none taller.

And remember, Louis Vuitton was a different matter entirely. Ernesto had little to do with Louis Vuitton's involvement in America's Cup. It was Bruno Troublé's passion for the event, his vision for the Louis Vuitton Cup, and Louis Vuitton's trust in his vision that made the Challenger Series a hallmark of the America's Cup and a fixture in world sport.

Can you believe how difficult it will be to install an underwriter of this caliber?

In time for the Summer of 2009?

Goodness, gracious me.

So let's loft those multihulls and sharpen those hydrofoils.

It's Deed of Gift time.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Ernesto, onward!

Ernesto loves sailing and loves winning. But frankly, we are tired of coaching him. He doesn't listen. We have given up trying to understand his psychology. He is an enigma. Nevertheless, here we go, yet again, plunging into the maelstrom.

We urge you, Ernesto, to negotiate. Look at the situation.

Everything is moving along, honkey dory. The challengers are united, and committed to a conventional America's Cup in 2009. Even the celebrated 'Nine Points' survive, a great concession to you, to Valencia, and to the Cup, with even greater commitments from all challengers for Valencia as the host for America's Cup 34, the edition that will follow in 2010 or 2011. This is great for everyone.

Noise from Valencia suggests that a bona fide challenger's series may even attract the interest of experienced sponsors, such as Louis Vuitton, who departed rather than embrace your original protocol. Perhaps Louis Vuitton, perhaps not.

Interestingly, the challengers even embrace 90-foot boats, even if purists and perhaps even the great sailor and great purist Mr. Troublé (of Louis Vuitton) do not. That's something to embrace, isn't it? You said you wanted planing boats. They will create them for you. It may take some explaining, however, for Mr. Troublé. But he is a gentleman, and gentlemen always listen to reason.

The big fact in all of this, however, as if you hadn't noticed, is money.

You haven't been able to attract sponsors to support your version of AC33, perhaps because you never asked, or never asked the right way, or didn't bother, or perhaps because you never had a mandate for the event.

Now America's Cup itself has the mandate. Judge Cahn returned it to the challengers.

And yet the challengers are willing to work with you to make things happen. They are ready to pick up where negotiations were abandoned by your people -- your lawyers, your skipper, and even you.

You owe it to America's Cup, to the City of Valencia, to Spain, to your nominating club (an organization with apparently inexhaustable patience), and to your fabulous team, to say yes.

If you do not say yes, Alinghi loses. Valencia loses. You probably also lose on the water, in multihull hydrofoils. The Cup possibly even departs for San Francisco. Then Alinghi loses again, so does Valencia, so does the Cup, and a great legacy is squandered.

You aren't listening, we know that. You only listen to you.

But you are smart. Even you know, if you truly believe in America's Cup, that the shortest step and the greatest honor is sitting down and making AC33 happen as it should, as a classic America's Cup, for all nations, in 2009.

As difficult for you as that may be.

But you have courage in abundance, and it only takes a little courage to do this.

You may think the courageous path is multihulls.

That's not courage. That's lunacy.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

What Brad thinks

This story hasn't been published in all the usual places. At America's Cup View, we don't normally do links to news, but since nobody else has, check this out.

Brad is very depressed.

Obviously, one, he's saddened by the ruling. Two, probably, by the fact that work on his new home on the Hauraki Gulf, in Auckland, New Zealand, has been halted for bizarre, bureaucratic reasons.

Nevertheless, Brad is grumpy about Judge Cahn's decision.

Interestingly, Alinghi posted it as a feature, not as a media release, probably why Valencia Sailing, Sail-World and Scuttlebutt aren't touching it.

Be my guest:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

America's Cup wins!

Congratulations to Golden Gate Yacht Club of San Francisco (GGYC) on their successful defense of the letter and spirit of the Deed of Gift in the New York Supreme Court.

Best wishes to Société Nautique de Genève (SNG), trusting in their good faith, fairness and sportsmanship in completing negotiations for a new protocol for America's Cup 33, defining and describing a monohull competition among many nations.

A request to Louis Vuitton to return to AC33 to enhance the prestige of the event and continue one of the greatest sponsorships in the history of sports.

A prayer for the safe design and construction of magnificent AC90 boats which will take the excitement and competitiveness of America's Cup racing to an entirely new level, never before experienced, attracting sailors, fans and enthusiasts from around the world.

A desire for litigation to cease, discussions to ensue, and a timetable established for AC33 to be completed in the Summer of 2009.

Finally, a plea for forebearance from GGYC, should that be needed, and acceptance, should that be needed, from SNG.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

And may the America's Cup win!

Best wishes to Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) in their defense of the Deed of Gift against the challenger, Société Nautique de Genève (SNG), and SNG's attempt to convert the ancient document to govern a yacht racing event for which it was not designed. God speed!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Part II: What Ernesto must do now

Let's review.

(1) Ernesto (Bertarelli, SUI) said let's race big 90-foot boats.

(2) Let's only build one boat, and race one boat, per team.

(3) We all sail together, defender and challenger alike.

(4) A Spanish Yacht Club, Club Náutico Español de Vela (CNEV), will be challenger of record.

(5) We eliminate the role of all challengers to decide anything, including the challenger series, and give them no voice in anything that has to do with the Cup, except their decision to compete.

That was Ernesto's 'plan'.

Now it's a big mess, admittedly. But before we dismiss it, or diss it yet again, let's give Ernesto the benefit of some objectivity.

Let's grant him big boats. Let's grant him the idea that we all sail together, just like every team that participates in a global sporting event like World Cup Rugby, for example, where everyone is equal, including the last winner, and ultimately, only one team, the best team, prevails. Let's even, for the moment, grant him CNEV (but only temporarily).

What's wrong with this picture?

A lot is wrong with this picture. But mostly -- and gravely -- the alignment of the protocol is wrong.

If Ernesto truly desired to reinvent America's Cup for the 33rd Edition, he made a humongous bruta figura in converting the traditional protocol to support it.

That was a total non-starter, and subsequent events have proven it. Now chaos and confusion reign.

In contrast, if Ernesto truly desired to stage a different America's Cup, he had two obligations:

(1) Clearly explain his new AC33 concept. That means pre-selling it to potential participants (to get their goodwill and their participation) and selling it publicly (so the media gets the story right) long before the wording of the protocol is even contemplated.

(2) Develop an entirely new protocol that supports the new concept. A new, fair and reasonable protocol for the new event, not an old protocol corrupted from the Deed of Gift.

Unfortunately, Ernesto did none of this, not even close.

Now, frankly, he must make amends.

He must absolutely make a mid-course correction, and do it before October 22, when the new concept risks a calamity in the New York Supreme Court, and a fierce burning to the waterline, torched in effect by a protocol (and a Deed of Gift) that describes a markedly different event.

And, maybe, we have to grant Ernesto some leeway, some headroom, some respect, to do what must be done.

What Ernesto must do now

Hypothetically, Ernesto must hold meeting of challengers and prospective challengers at a suitable, neutral location, say Dubai.

Let's imagine him welcoming his guests:

Fellow sailors, thank you for coming. I am here to do two things.

One, I want to better explain my idea for America's Cup 33, and two, I want to ask for your support and participation in what I know will be an exciting event for all of us, and for sailing fans around the world, including a lot of new fans who discovered America's Cup for the first time, in the waters off Valencia, as well as on television around the world, this spring.

But first I want to apologize -- not for my idea for AC33, which I love, and which I think you can love and support also. But rather for the confusion, anger and frustration that our planning has created, particularly regarding the protocol.

I regret these unintended consequences, and I know you do, too -- but I think our meeting today can resolve these issues. In fact, I know it can.

My essential idea for the Cup is pure.

I want us to race big boats, which Brad (Butterworth, NZL) says reminds him of the big, beautiful J Class boats of yesteryear. I'm excited about these big boats. Many of you are, too. I know we can design and build these big boats in two years. I know you and your great teams can, too.

Regarding the racing, however, that's a totally different idea.

What must be understood -- and what hasn't been understood about my concept -- is that there is no defender and there are no challengers.

Believe me.

We are all going to be equal. Alinghi is a contender. You are all contenders. We are all contenders together. One of us will win -- I hope it's me, but it might be you. So good luck to you. And good luck to me.

My big mistake, I now admit, was not inventing this concept for AC33 -- but in using the old protocol to make it happen. That was a huge mistake. Looking back, I cannot believe we did that.

What we really intended to do was to create a new idea for AC33.

To be authentic, I now see clearly, this new idea must have its own protocol.

As a result of this meeting, therefore, I want us to consider the implications of a new protocol, and in fact, I want us to lay the foundations for a new protocol.

Basically, what we must consider today is this:

Since we are all 'contenders', the idea of 'defenders' and 'challengers' is now obsolete. We are competing together. There is no 'defender' (although we at Alinghi won AC32). There is no 'challenger', because we are all challenging, Alinghi included.

Therefore, we are all racing together.

Therefore, if we all race together, our new protocol must acknowledge this.

If we race together, we must design the boat together. It must be our shared formula.

If we race together, we must appoint committees together. These committees must judge all of us.

If we race together, we must design our course of events together. That means deciding where we want to race together, how many events, what system of points will accrue to participants and victors. And so on.

If we race together, we must decide this together.

I cannot think of a system that would be more pure, more authentic, more democratic, or more equitable.

Ostensibly, I know that this idea may be in conflict with the original Deed of Gift, as we understand it, and as many people understand the conventions of America's Cup.

But I am asking that all of us to come together on these precepts to make America's Cup 33 a different kind of America's Cup.

In so doing, I want us to make it a stunning success -- which I know it can be -- given that we have an exciting new concept, with exciting new boats, entered by the nations of the world, Switzerland included.

Personally, I believe that my America's Cup concept can be our America's Cup concept.

Personally, I also believe that this Cup can live in the spirit, if not the letter, of the Deed of Gift.

After all, it was a contest of nations that inspired the original America's Cup, and all subsequent contests.

All of us represent fantastically committed nations, and their premier yacht clubs, and I must admit, some new clubs that I know will rise to greatness.

Regardless, my deepest wish is a sincere one.

Let us make this edition of the America's Cup succeed.

If America's Cup succeeds, we all succeed.

And, as we consider these new ideas, let us also consider these footnotes.

If we believe this event is a workable context, I am assured by Club Náutico Español de Vela (CNEV) that they will return their acceptance as challenger of record, and join all of us as a contender.

My special wish is that we grant them the status as "Host Yacht Club" and that we honor them, their city and their nation, as our esteemed and gracious hosts for America's Cup 33.

If we believe that this event is a workable concept, and if we agree that these ideas are viable, and if our friends in San Francisco are in accord with these ideas, I invite the Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC), and my great competitor, Larry Ellison (USA), to consider the alternatives available to them, regarding imminent proceedings in the Supreme Court of New York.

My fellow sailors, whatever has been said about me, and whatever I have said about you, one thing remains. I am one of you.

I'm an entrepreneur and a businessman, like Larry, and many of you, and I live in the business world.

But my love is our world, sailing and racing.

I hope that the confusion, frustration and fears created by a new idea, which I now agree was creatively and imaginitively birthed, but inadequately introduced, can be effectively remediated and that we can work together to create the greatest America's Cup the world has ever seen.

Even greater than the brilliant event we just concluded.

Please join me in making this happen.

Thank you.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Part I: What Ernesto did, and didn't do

Ernesto Bertarelli (SUI) had big ideas for America's Cup 33.

A seasoned competitor, he personally experienced the trials and torments of two America's Cup campaigns, and he triumphed, twice.

As he looked at AC33, he saw a different competition.

First (and not necessarily in this order, because nobody but Ernesto knows Ernesto's mind), he envisioned bigger boats, ninety-foot boats, eleven feet longer than Version 5 boats, with huge rigs and sails; as Brad Butterworth (NZL) later said, boats that evoked the spirit of the old J Class yachts of yesteryear.

Second, Ernesto decided he didn't want to build two of them. Obviously he felt the cost impacts of two vessels, two crews, and two huge overheads. Building two boats makes no sense, he says. It's insane. Let's build one boat, race one boat, and win with one boat. After all, that's what they used to do in America's Cup; that's what the great sailing event was all about. Perhaps, if you race Formula One cars, you need a stable of race cars. But this is sailing. One boat should be good enough -- so long as you build the right boat and sail it the right way.

Third, Ernesto envisioned a different kind of series. Not a traditional defender-challenger series, defined by two camps -- one the defender, and a circus of other boats, fighting it out among themselves for the right to sail against the former victor, waiting patiently in the shallows. Instead, he saw an open preliminary, like World Cup rugby. Or Wimbledon tennis. Yes, there's last year's winner, ostensibly the defender. And yes, there is a flurry of challengers. But it's going to be different this time; everyone starts out the same. The playing field is totally leveled. Everyone races together. And the last two boats remaining fight it out for the America's Cup. We, as Alinghi, might be part of that; we might not. But all of us sail equally; may the best boat win.

This bucks tradition, and certainly it's a different concept. But is it irrational, crazy, insane, draconian? Not at all. It's just a different concept. And it might even be a reasonable concept given today's world and the pressures on teams, syndicates and sponsors. Yacht racing is not getting less expensive; it's getting more expensive. If costs can be controlled without destroying the thrill and excitement and challenge of America's Cup racing -- and we add to that the excitement of huge boats competing in one, amazing, knock-down, drag out preliminary that leads to the America's Cup final -- well, maybe we will achieve something great.

Fourth, Ernesto decided, let's have a Spanish challenger of record. This is a big emotional, tactical and competitive issue, since the challenger, traditionally, has considerable power and influence over the event. But it would be great for my organization, says Ernesto, and certainly great for Valencia and Spain, our AC32 hosts, to be the city and nation of the challenger of record. In fact, it would help cement Valencia's involvement in AC33 and be a tribute of sorts to Spain. It would also make our lives a lot easier. Better than dealing with an aggressive challenger who might corrupt our concept, we have an elegant solution that makes us friends in Spain.

Fifth -- and here, we might add, Ernesto gets inexplicable, and as a result, in the perceptions of many people, logic, fairness and honor take a vacation -- he decides to totally manage the new event. Let's tighten the protocol, he says. Let's make sure we control everything -- the design concept, the protocol for racing, the management of rules and protests, the race committee, adjudication, everything. We manage all of this. We don't have the challengers managing anything. Remember, we changed the fundamental concept of America's Cup and we can't expect anyone to see it our way. If the challengers are part of it, we can be sure they will destroy the concept, and we'll be back to square one in a contest we don't want.

Now, that's what Ernesto did, basically, more or less, give or take.

He definitively broke with tradition and created a different concept for the event.

At the very least, it should be something to consider. Whatever the motivation, it's a different way of looking at America's Cup; maybe it's even an improvement, one that's right for this century.

Anyway, that's what Ernesto did.

What he didn't do, was sell it.

Ernesto's radical new concept was wrapped in the argot of the legal document known as the Protocol for the 33rd Edition of the America's Cup.

It was casually, officiously and arrogantly thrown in the face of the America's Cup community at yet another pompous, one-sided Valencia press conference, without any kind of pre-amble, pre-sell, discussion, presentation, articulation, introduction, explanation, elucidation or celebration of what, in fact, might actually be a reasonable, although controversial, concept.

Ernesto didn't articulate anything, and perhaps couldn't. His lawyers only did lawyerly things. Brad Butterworth, a good lad from the Waikato, did his best, but he didn't explain the grand design either. Nobody did.

As a result, everyone in the America's Cup community became confused, frustrated, angry, fearful, worried, and majorly concerned in a major way.

And when the dust settles, and everyone reads and finally digests the protocol, they go bats**t. Some more than others.

The tragedy isn't that Ernesto came up with a new concept.

But he didn't explain it.

What actually happened is that everyone evaluated the new concept for the America's Cup by the old rules of the America's Cup.

And by the old rules, the new concept assuredly fails.

Ernesto might have pulled the cat out of the coals, but as the weeks rolled by, he became even more arrogant, more defensive and more aggressive in his remarks.

What the world has been watching -- Ernesto among them -- is a new concept sailing into the headwind of an old protocol, the venerable Deed of Gift itself.

Now the concept is languishing in the New York Supreme Court, where, on October 22, it will be adjudicated by the rules it was intended to replace.

Ernesto may be a smart man. But nobody I know has ever made, unnecessarily, a bigger blunder.

On Friday, look for Part II:
What Ernesto must do now.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Oh, and by the way, Ernesto, next time, wear a tie

Show some respect for the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) and Commodore Townsend.

Wear a tie.

Button your jacket.

Take your hand out of your pocket.

And while I guess it's hard for you to keep your clammy hand off the America's Cup trophy, show a little restraint.

The Commodore isn't going to sweep the Auld Mug from your grasp.

Not now, anyway.

But you can be assured, a team nominated by NYYC will, later, on an arm of the sea, somewhere.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Ernesto brings the Cup (and the Big Lie) to New York

The Prince of Alinghi, Ernesto Bertarelli,
the Auld Mug, and Commodore Charles Townsend
in the Model Room of the New York Yacht Club,
October 3, 2007.

Listen to this.

It's Ernesto Bertarelli (SUI), Prince of Alinghi, quoted in interview conducted October 4, 2007, at the New York Yacht Club, by Aaron Kuriloff of Bloomberg News:

"Bertarelli, 42, who successfully defended the Cup for landlocked Switzerland in July in the waters off Valencia, Spain, sat by the limestone fireplace in the (New York Yacht) club's Model Room explaining why he'd like to change the rules for the world's oldest sporting championship and is willing to fight for those changes in an Oct. 22 court hearing.

"When we thought of the vision of the 33rd America's Cup, a very strong underlying theme -- that maybe is not shared with some disgruntled competitors -- was to reduce cost," Bertarelli said. 'I think a lot of people see what we're trying to do. We have five competitors entered and more that are coming. But we're not pleasing everyone and that's unfortunate."

Kuriloff's article continues, as per usual.

Accept what Bertarelli says. Slam billionaires and their toys. And in an inspired twist, quote an authority from the sidelines. In this case, Paul Henderson (CAN), a former President of the International Sailing Federation, the sport's governing body, which, as Kuriloff says, "has almost no control over the America's Cup".

"Such feuds diminish what should be sailing's equivalent of golf's Master's Tournament, or tennis's Wimbledon, Henderson said in a telephone interview", according to Kuriloff.

"Big boys and their big toys," (Henderson) says. "They bring it all down with these lawsuits and I think 'What in the hell is wrong with these people?'"

Well, Mr. Henderson, we wonder what in the hell is wrong with you.

Just in case you haven't been paying attention, everyone can live with 90-foot boats (people are very excited about 90-foot boats), the design rules, the two-year turnaround, and virtually everything else to do with the concept of America's Cup 33. Nobody is protesting that; not Russell Coutts (NZL), CEO and skipper of BMW Oracle; not Larry Ellison (USA), Oracle chief; not Tom Ehman (USA), head of external affairs for BMW Oracle.

The beef, as we all know, is (1) the legitimacy of the Challenger of Record, Club Náutico Español de Vela (CNEV), and (2) the lack of challenger involvement in the planning of the challenger event and the conduct of racing, a huge break with tradition.

If Mr. Henderson is, as he presents himself, a stickler for fair play, in the great tradition of the Masters and Wimbledon, he clearly has turned a blind eye to Bertarelli's plans for the management and conduct of AC33.

All in all, quite an amazing couple of days.

Ernesto dissembling in the Model Room at 37 West 44th Street in New York.

Blaming Ellison, yet again.

And a whining note from a former office holder of the International Sailing Federation.

Can you believe this?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Nevertheless, Ernesto's head is still in Larry's noose

But, frankly, he doesn't care.

However secretly Ernesto Bertarelli (SUI), Prince of Alinghi, may fear (or wonder about) the looming Supreme Court of New York hearing (October 22, 2007), he doesn't show it.

Despite the conversation reported last week between himself and Larry Ellison (USA), Chief of BMW Oracle, which they have both kept secret, anyone who thinks Ernesto will suddenly be gifted with generosity and kindness to all challengers, both those declared and those considering, well, they are sorely mistaken.

Ernesto is a man who will not surrender anything he thinks he owns, not a thing, nothing, unless it is ripped from his hands and his heart by the power of God. It would take God to move him. And then, you can be sure, he would resist it.

Right now, Ernesto owns everything that has to do with America's Cup 33.

Unless you mis-read that sentence, that's everything.


And by own, we do mean own. America's Cup 33 is his property, nobody else's. Nobody else on the planet has a piece of it, or in Ernesto's mind, ever will. It's a grace-and-favor enterprise from beginning to end -- his grace, and his favor. And there's precious little of either in the make up of this extraordinary man.

What we are dealing with is a not-so-tiny piece of human pathology that transcends virtually anything anyone could ever possibly assume is 'normal'.

By any reasonable estimation, we are dealing with an individual above whom no-one else can exist, greater than whom no mortal can be, richer, more talented, more skilled, more intelligent, more insightful, smarter, cleverer, or more charming than whom, is something that simply cannot be imagined.

Ernesto has built a pedestal; no, a pinnacle. He sits atop it.

And there is only one person he allows to share the spotlight with him; his lovely wife, Kristy.

Meanwhile, back down here on planet earth, America's Cup, frankly, is no longer a famous sporting event, the oldest in organized sport, conducted with respect and goodwill among like-minded souls, an event that belongs to all the nations that compete.

Oh, no. Not at all. Not in any kind of way.

It's now a big, fat, crass, Euro-power event, totally owned, staged, conducted and administered, without a thought for the rest of the world, by one man.

Ernesto, Prince of Alinghi.

And Ernesto will, assuredly, call the shots, exactly as he sees them, whenever he feels like it, and to whatever degree he feels suits him, now and later, now and for the rest of time, unless stopped.

The fact is, there is only one thing that stands between Ernesto and the America's Cup as we know it. It's not Larry Ellison, or anyone else. It's the New York Supreme Court.

Who knows what will happen there?

Like you, we hope that objectivity, honor and integrity will prevail. Like you, we are watching, and waiting. So, too, you can be sure, is Ernesto.

Golden Gate Yacht Club of San Francisco (GGYC) and its nominated team, Larry Ellison's BMW Oracle, are the only participants who have (1) publicly spoken the truth about AC33 and Ernesto's death grip on it; (2) had the guts and the b***s to do anything about it; and in so doing have actually (3) imperiled their own AC33 campaign in order to see that openness, honor, integrity and fairness prevail.

Where are the rest of you?

Literally, where are you?

Larry Ellison has been slammed by Ernesto, Alinghi and their minions. He takes flak from sailing writers around the world. When he reads the same columns all of us read, he sees himself described as a 'feuding billionaire'. Is that the best we can do? I don't think so.

In the interests of total disclosure, my primal allegiances aren't with this team. My passion is this event and all the teams, Alinghi included, who compete fairly for the greatest prize on earth.

But there is only one entity on the planet pushing for honor and integrity in America's Cup.

And it ain't the Prince of Alinghi.

Or any of you.

The noose will tighten October 22.

Or, amazingly, Ernesto will slip the knot and slip away.

Stay posted.

Friday, September 28, 2007

An apology would be better, Hamish

It was tempting to headline this column, "Hamish Ross, shut up." But that would be intemperate; that would not do. It would be tempting to say, "At least, we're glad he works for Alinghi." But that would be partisan, and while we are partisan, it really shouldn't show. And he is a sailor and a lover of classic boats, who has done much to preserve the heritage of New Zealand's vintage vessels, so we honor him for that initiative and its legacy.

But Hamish Ross's (NZL) recent attempt to justify, mitigate, withdraw-but-not-withdraw, modify, defend, parse, explain, dissemble, camouflage, reorder, disorder and redact his remarks about the validity of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) as an America's Cup challenger, at various points in its America's Cup history, is absurd in the extreme.

While his critique of the status of RNZYS as an incorporated entity was issued in his role as General Counsel of Alinghi, his response (by invitation or not), widely circulated in the media and online, it should be noted, was published by him personally.

He affirms that RNZYS received a Royal Warrant from the British Monarch and a warrant from the British Admiralty in 1902 granting members the right to wear the Blue Ensign, which according to key provisions in the Deed of Gift qualifies them as a legitimate Club.

Think of this as an orange.

Then, he says, the incorporation of RNZYS, by virtually any measure of the term 'incorporation', was invalid.

Perhaps, perhaps not. But think of that as an apple.

He overlooks the fact that all the Deed of Gift requires is that you be a succulent, juicy fruit of their determining, an apple or an orange, and as an orange, RNZYS qualifies.

You can forget the apple.

Hamish Ross knows this absolutely. Which is what makes his juvenile missive self-serving and tedious, also in the extreme.

What we need to hear from Hamish Ross are words of character.

"I made an unfair assertion in my original comment," he should say. "The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron is a perfectly legitimate and authentic Club under the Deed of Gift. Everyone knows that. I was wrong in my assertion. However, I felt the facts were fungible, in my opinion, and I was happy to explore them in service to my employer who looks to me for loopholes and the legal and public relations advantages that these confer. Neverthless, I am forced to admit my poor judgment, and I offer my complete and unreserved apology to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, its officers and members, and its associates throughout the world. As an Alinghi team member, I look forward to sailing against their nominated New Zealand team in America's Cup 33. In the meantime, I shall continue to respect and wear the Squadron Ensign, a right granted to me as a member in good standing of RNZYS, by virtue of the authority granted them by the British Admiralty in 1902, subsequently affirmed by Royal Licence of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II. This is an honor that I personally value, and of which I am inestimably proud."

If Hamish Ross felt otherwise about the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, perhaps he should resign his Warrant (No.31) for his vessel (Little Jim) to wear the Squadron Ensign.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Kudos to Terry Hutchinson

Emirates Team New Zealand cruises quietly
prior to the start of a Louis Vuitton race
with Desafio Espagnol in May 2007.
Click for a closer view.

Terry Hutchinson (USA) was afterguard member and tactican for Emirates Team New Zealand for the 32nd America's Cup.

He was hired by Team New Zealand managing director Grant Dalton (NZL) during a remarkable 24-hour trip from the United States to Auckland, New Zealand, during the planning stages of the New Zealand challenge.

As a key player for New Zealand, Terry grew tremendously, personally and professionally, during the great event. As Kiwi tactician, he forged a relationship with the New Zealand afterguard, including skipper Dean Barker (NZL). As a sailor, he was totally focused and totally motivated. As a competitor, he gave every race his 1001 percent effort. And he was successful.

In some ways, he was a lot like his bete noir, Brad Butterworth (NZL) of Alinghi, the world's canniest sailor. Terry took risks, too, just like Brad. But maybe Brad knew more, had done more, and could handle more. Yet Terry was a serious competitor.

And Team New Zealand won the Louis Vuitton Cup.

They could have won the America's Cup, too, but didn't.

They lost the one race to stay alive by one second. And given the tumults and tempests that impact any America's Cup race, how could any tactician, any skipper, or any navigator realistically plan to avoid a situation like that? It's impossible.

So for reasons best known to Terry and Team New Zealand, he will be moving on.

During the last race, it was tragic to hear Terry (via onboard sound and video) apologize to his crew members for yet another left-side-of-the-course decision that temporarily doomed ETNZ. But they rallied him in a heartbeat and cheered him aggressively. All part of Grant Dalton's genius, on-board management philosophy, "steady state".

That race tore you apart. We saw a great skipper, Dean Barker, doing his damndest. We lived through every ounce of tension with a very human tactician, a focused afterguard, a great crew, and a great team. All of them on a great boat.

Best wishes to Terry Hutchinson for the next steps in his America's Cup career, and megabest wishes to the team lucky enough to bring him aboard.

Whaia te kaha!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Gosh, Schnack is the design co-ordinator, do we think that's a good idea?

Tom Schnackenberg (NZL) was design coordinator for Team New Zealand for America's Cup 2003. He built the boats.

Here's how ABC News Australia described the incident above, in AC 2003, during the event:

COMMENTATOR: Team New Zealand have broken their mast. Just collapsed, snapped in half. Oh my goodness! Just disaster for Team New Zealand.

ROSS SOLLY: The crack of the mast on board NZL 82 was matched only by the crack of New Zealand jaws hitting the ground, as their multi-million-dollar yacht lurched in the waters off Auckland.

COMMENTATOR: Trying to cope with all this damage. I mean, it is just horrendous out here, and this is, well, it's just calamitous, isn't it?

ROSS SOLLY: Alinghi was ahead when the disaster struck, and only had to make its way around the final three legs to take a four-nil lead. Race five is set down for tomorrow, and Team New Zealand will burn the midnight oil tonight replacing their mast.

Tom Schnackenberg is design coordinator for the New Zealand defence, and spoke to local television shortly after the drama.

TOM SCHNACKENBERG: Oh, yes, it's a sight that no sailor likes to experience. We all do from time to time, but it was dreadful, especially in this situation.

INTERVIEWER: They can repair the rig, but what about repairing morale now? What are you going to do?

TOM SCHNACKENBERG: Oh, well, the guys just have to put this behind them. As you can imagine, they were very, very annoyed and disappointed. They'll be taking positives out of it and saying okay, let's just forget this and go out and race tomorrow.

ROSS SOLLY: Team New Zealand had to withdraw from race one of the finals series after suffering gear problems. John Bertrand, who experienced the highs of America's Cup tracing when he helped Australia create history in 1983, but has also felt the lows, says New Zealand's poor performance has been surprising.

Is there anything that the sailors on board could've done to stop it happening?

TOM SCHNACKENBERG: Not whilst continuing the race. Probably in hindsight, they didn't know it at the time. But the bottom line is if you race these boats in extreme conditions above what they had today, then any of these race boats would break up.

The bottom line, however, is obviously the safety factors that team New Zealand have developed are a little bit below what is required to complete an America's Cup race, and that's what we saw. And that's what we saw in the first race where they broke the boom and did some other stuff as well.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Keep up the good work, Ernesto!

Work in the trenches by Brad Butterworth (NZL and Alinghi) and Russell Coutts (NZL and BMW Oracle) appears to be moving America's Cup 33 forward.

Just announced by Société Nautique de Genève (SNG) and Team Alinghi, with the "agreement" of Club Náutico Español de Vela (CNEV), are subtle changes in the 33rd Protocol that (i) limit the powers of America's Cup Management (ACM) to act in an arbitrary and capricious way, (ii) redefine aspects of the protocol, yet curiously (iii) protect the power of the Alinghi-appointed Arbitration Panel (ACAP).

The fact is, there is a lot vested in the honor, integrity and independence of the three panel members, a Swiss, a Kiwi, and a Spaniard. All of whom were appointed by Alinghi, and none by the challengers.

Nevertheless, Ernesto Bertarelli (SUI), Prince of Alinghi, has been quoted and said, in effect, we've taken a step towards you, Larry (Ellison, USA). We want you in the Cup. Drop your lawsuit and become a full-fledged member of the challenger community. You can see we're involving challengers, and we're softening the protocol.

Which is great.

But Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) hasn't yet weighed in. And there's still the remaining legal issue pending in the New York Supreme Court over CNEV's legitimacy as a challenger. And issues are still simmering over the independence of the challenger event, formally known as the Louis Vuitton Cup, which all current challengers are cheerfully ignoring in the hope that GGYC will resolve it.

Today's news, however, is a step in the right direction.

Certainly, Ernesto wants Larry and Russell in the game.

No wonder.

Any American team, and particularly this one, commands the attention of the largest media market on the planet and millions of dollars in potential revenues for the Cup. Not just from the United States, either, but globally. After all, Russell is a uber-Kiwi. And Oracle and BMW are global brands.

If it's America's Cup, America has to be there.

That's what most saltwater Americans believe. And if asked, most regular Americans, as well.

But be assured, no American wants any American team hog-tied by rules that are draconian in their intent, and absurd in their application.

Ernesto seems to be rethinking what he originally created. God bless him.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

On top of everything, Brad and Russell still play golf together

Well, everything is happening, as planned. Good old Tom Schnackenberg (NZL) has been appointed by America's Cup Management (ACM) to liase with all challengers (except Oracle) to discuss design rules for the new 90-foot boat. Once he does that, then (wham!) he transfers to the Alinghi design team.

Some people say this great New Zealander is the canary in the coal mine.

If he hesitates, they say, leave the room. You can be sure that the next big wind will be Ernesto Bertarelli (SUI), the Prince of Alinghi, and his legions of lawyers, dissemblers and aribitration panelists.

Elsewhere, the Prince's arbitration committee (ACAP), headed by his pal, Prof. Henry Peter (SUI), has declared the candidacy and stature of Club Náutico Español de Vela (CNEV) to be beyond reproach. Absolutely spotless. Just the perfect challenger. Nobody better, and they were first to challenge so we can't refuse them, despite the fact we cooked this before anyone else challenged and nobody else was invited.

This is the big lie at work.

Elsewhere, the New York Supreme Court has refused to grant Golden Gate Yacht Club's injunction, but has asked for written and verbal proposals from both parties to the lawsuit, and soon.

And still, challengers roll up and knock on Alinghi's door.

There are demonstrations, also, of the pathetic.

Notably Hamish Ross (NZL), General Counsel for Alinghi, and his assertion that the venerable Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) was not incorporated during recent America's Cup events. This required Commodore John Crawford, a major decision maker in America's Cup, representing one of the oldest yacht clubs on the planet, to vigorously defend the Club, sharing the truth about the Squadron's status.

What makes Ross's assertion absurd is that everyone knows RNZYS is inviolate as an institution; it's part of the global sailing establishment. Which is something that every legal hack, Hamish Ross chief among them, knows assuredly.

Anyway, it's the silly season.

One good thing is that Brad (Butterworth, NZL, Alinghi) and Russell (Coutts, NZL, Oracle) are talking to each other.

They are the world's best friends.

Despite the Prince of Alinghi and the Chief of Oracle, who are their esteemed employers, these two pals are deep friends. They maintain a deep and personal relationship.

And they golf together ...


Our fictitious caddy followed the pals as they meandered over the course at Club Scorpion, not far from Port America's Cup:

BRAD: You whacked that bugger into the trees.

RUSSELL: No, I was laying up for my second.

BRAD: I've done that before, it didn't work.

RUSSELL: Brad, what are we going to do about Ernesto? We're hanging out there. Larry's doing the legal thing. I need to build a team. You need us or it's going to be c**p for American viewership. You've got to do something.

BRAD: I've been doing everything I can, mate. You don't know how hard this is.

RUSSELL: Maybe I do.

BRAD: Ernesto's got the bit between his teeth. The tougher it gets, the tougher he gets. He's really proud of this thing. He really thinks he owns the America's Cup. He's not gonna give an inch on anything.

RUSSELL: He doesn't own it.

BRAD: Ask Kristy that.

RUSSELL: Well, she did look happy coming down the steps from that Swiss plane.

BRAD: She's hot for the America's Cup.

RUSSELL: The world thinks Larry is the evil player. You know Ernesto is a maniac. What are we going to do?

BRAD: Buggered if I know.

RUSSELL: No, you're in there. You've got to make a decision.

BRAD: Look, if I knew what to do, we'd be doing it. It's all about Ernesto. He makes all the calls. I don't like it, but I've gotta do it. If there's a way to get around this, Ernesto doesn't want to know about it. He thinks we've won.

RUSSELL: Look, just change the challenger series. That's all anybody wants. Change that, and everything happens.

BRAD: Mate, Ernesto doesn't want a challenger's series he doesn't sail in. He doesn't want teams building two boats or thinking about more than one boat. He doesn't want anyone doing anything that gives them an advantage. He hates that. Not too crazy about it myself.

RUSSELL: Does he want us in the Cup?

BRAD: You'd better use a five-iron from here.

RUSSELL: No, I'll use a six.

BRAD: The wind's from the east.

RUSSELL: Where's my seven?

BRAD: Well, if you're gonna use your seven, hit towards that tree. Hit it hard and let's see what happens.

RUSSELL: What are you going to hit?

BRAD: I'll follow you.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Seriously, Brad, why should Larry Ellison withdraw anything?

It's great to hear Brad Butterworth (NZL) discussing the Alinghi vision for big new boats for America's Cup 33.

It's a bold vision evoking the great J-Class boats of yesteryear, with new technology and new thinking. It will mean big boats, big crews, great sailing and great competition. Who could possibly resist? AC33 will be great for boat design, motivating (and challenging) for teams, and fabulous for the rest of us to watch.

But it's sad and tiresome to see this great sailor step into a flakcatcher role, as he did yesterday, whining about Golden Gate Yacht Club's lawsuit in New York and moaning about Larry Ellison (USA).

One, the lawsuit hasn't stopped serious teams from challenging.

Two, the sad fact is, Ernesto Bertarelli (SUI) started this. Ernesto set the rules. Ernesto made all the decisions. Golden Gate has disagreed, philosophically and legally. So they have asked the New York Court that adjudicates the Deed of Gift to make a decision.

That's perfectly legitimate, and perfectly reasonable.

This whole thing boils down to fairness and objectivity, as most people see it. And it's a smokescreen to blame Larry Ellison and Golden Gate. Ernesto is the major proactive factor here.

In truth, there is only one person who has anything to withdraw.

It's the Prince of Alinghi.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Britain's TeamOrigin ploughs in!

Sir Keith Mills, Principal TeamOrigin (GBR), with a printed, folded, and apparently, just unwrapped, Union Jack.

Speaking in italics, Sir Keith Mills (GBR), Principal of TeamOrigin, representing the new British challenger, the Royal Thames Yacht Club (RTYC), today declared the new Protocol for the 33rd America's Cup to be absolutely the best protocol ever.

Not a defect anywhere. Just perfect. No two-boat testing (a huge relief, to be perfectly honest). Club Náutico Español de Vela (CNEV), absolutely the right challenger of record, no quarrel with that, looking forward to their regatta, sometime in 2007, should be a stunner. Thanks to Ernesto, we're going deep into the 21st century with this one, forget the past, it's sheer brilliance all the way. Happy to be part of it.

To paraphrase.

Seriously, it's great to see Britain seriously involved in America's Cup 33. Team Origin, let's hope, will be a dedicated and innovative competitor.

But this Billy Bunter support for the protocol?

Where does that come from?

Friday, August 31, 2007

How does Ernesto explain CNEV?

This is the America's Cup lagoon
at the Port of Valencia.

If Mr. Ernesto Bertarelli, the Prince of Alinghi, gets his way, a Spanish challenger, Club Nautico Espagnol de Vela (CNEV), will be the challenger of record for America's Cup 33.

That's a very tough call. Frankly, it cannot be explained.

There is nothing about CNEV that Ernesto could possibly explain, in any way, whatsoever, in any forum, in any court in the country, his country, our country, or Spain, and look any judge in the eye, put any kind of reasonable case forward, and escape from the courtroom with his honor and integrity intact.

That would be utterly impossible.

In the same way, we can't imagine that Ernesto ever wants to be in any court of law in Valencia, New York, or anywhere, in order to try to explain CNEV as a valid challenger for the America's Cup.

It's totally Alice in Wonderland.

In fact, there could only be one explanation for Ernesto's passion for CNEV, a sham yacht club that has no boats, no members, has never conducted a regatta of any kind, on any arm of the sea, anywhere, as required by the ancient Deed of Gift that governs the America's Cup.

It's all about Valencia.

You are Ernesto. The fate of America's Cup 33 is in your hands. You are dealing with the City of Valencia, Port of Valencia authorities, regional politicans, and somewhere down the line (or up the line) the authorities in Madrid.

Somewhere in the background there may even be that great yachting fan, the King of Spain himself.

If you are Ernesto, and you want to curry favor (persuade, argue positively, build friends), I think you say Valencia is where you want to sail. We love the city, the port, the lagoon, the ambience, the everything. To convince Spanish authorities of this, and to prove how much you love Valenica and its region, not to mention how much you need the millions of dollars they will provide, you probably have to say one thing.

We have selected a Spanish challenger of record.

The Spanish challenger is CNEV.

If you were a Spanish politician, your reaction would be predictable. This is great! Alinghi's America's Cup isn't a Swiss thing, it's our thing now. We must support it. Let's support Valencia, let's support Alinghi, let's keep this event here. Let's give the Prince of Alinghi the millions he's asking for. And let's even do more than that.

After all, a Spanish yacht club is challenging for the cup.

It will be good for our city, and our nation.

Inevitably, if you are a Spanish politician, that's very fine.

But if CNEV runs aground, as assuredly it will, well, then, despite what was said and promised earlier, Ernesto can say he did everything he had to do to ensure that Valencia retained the America's Cup.

In response to any questioning of the challenger's bona fides, he has a simple answer.

It's not my problem, says Ernesto.

I gave Spain the opportunity.

I did everything I possibly could.

Unbelievably, the court stripped it way.

But one thing is sure.

We are here in Valencia.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Get it done, Ernesto

There is one factor at the critical, central, fulcrum point of everything that has to do with America's Cup, 33rd edition.

It's really not Alinghi, although Alinghi is right there in the vest pocket. It's not America's Cup Management, although that's a puppet for Alinghi and Ernesto Bertarelli. It's not Valencia, Spain, or the European sailing venues.

Goodness me, it's Ernesto.

Everything that has to do with bizarre undertakings of the 33rd Protocol and its impacts on every America's Cup team, devolves to Ernesto.

It's about him. It's his call. It's his judgment. Always.

Ernesto, to be frank, what does anyone have to do to crack your code?

What has to happen before you think and act like the sportsman you really are?

You are the great sportsman who funded an entry level Team New Zealand (32), and if we believe what the pundits are saying, an entry level South Africa Team (33).

You are a great sailor, a great leader, a great player in the world of sport.


What on earth are you giving up if you reinstate the 32nd Protocol, or install one just like it?

In our view, and in the view of everyone else on the planet, nothing.

You still have control over 90-foot boats -- nobody is taking issue with this. Sailors want 90-foot boats. We do, too.

You remain in Valencia, which everyone loves, including you.

You get to involve one of the world's great sailing competitors, Larry Ellison, who probably has more in common with you than anyone else on the planet.

And despite what your PR people, lawyers and flak catchers say, he is a great competitor, just like you.

In addition, you set aside a lot of aggravation that nobody wants, including you, although you are the one person who created this big, fat, bruta figura in America's Cup history.

So please, just move forward and create the best, biggest America's Cup ever. All anyone wants is a fair protocol. You can create this. Make it happen.

Then control the universe!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Alinghi, dissembling

Alinghi's response to Golden Gate Yacht Club's protest against the 33rd Protocol is curious in the extreme. They rail against Larry Ellison and GGYC. They say GGYC wants to destroy the Cup by denying other nations the right to sail while they sail with Alinghi alone, in catamarans.


The flak catchers from Alinghi, Michel Bonnefous, President of America's Cup Management (ACM), and the PR voice Michael Hodara, assert that Ellison is the villain in the piece.

Ellison and GGYC's point is simple. The protocol is flawed. All we want is a fair protocol. Re-instate the protocol (or one similar from last year) and we are happy. Let's go racing.

Alinghi's offense (and defense) is to assert that GGYC is corrupting AC racing with catamarans that nobody wants.

Again, please.

Alinghi totally controls the protocol, therefore totally controls everything that has to do with America's Cup 33. They can eliminate anyone they disagree with, in any way, at any time, for any reason whatsoever, without any right of protest.

It's insane.

But it's the protocol. They wrote it. They can do that.

Ultimately, the Prince of Alinghi must accept that the America's Cup is not his personal property. It's greater than that.

It's a unique sporting event in which he is one of many brilliant competitors. He should draw strength from his skill and passion as a sailor, his success as a competitor, his focus as a team builder -- and not hide behind a protocol that only he controls.

He has the opportunity to create the next greatest America's Cup ever.

He already did that with America's Cup 32.

Ernesto, be the sportsman you were. Repeat your success.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

New York Supreme Court says, OK, adjudicate this, but do it fast

It's complicated. But clear. Today the New York Supreme Court granted the order requested by the Golden Gate Yacht Club of San Francisco (GGYC) to require the Société Nautique de Genève (SNG), the defending yacht club of the 33rd America's Cup, to promptly and with all due despatch speed up the process to review the validity of the challenging yacht club, Club Náutico Español de Vela (CNEV).

That's the legal determination.

Basically, it says to Prince Alinghi and his people, you accepted this (sham) challenger. Your acceptance has been challenged. You appointed an arbitration panel. Now the arbitration panel must expeditiously move forward the process of review.

In other words, you can't delay this. The arbitration panel must act.

And that's all, you might ask? Well, that's exactly what had to happen first.

From GGYC and Oracle's perspective, the validity of the challenger is critical. If the Spanish challenger (CNEV) is invalidated, then Larry Ellison's Oracle challenge moves into the spotlight.

If GGYC and Oracle prevail, there could be a catamaran challenge as soon as everyone agrees it can happen.

But if CNEV is invalidated, few think that GGYC would push for a catamaran series.

Ellison's pragmatism suggests they would use the ruling as leverage to persuade Prince Alinghi and his captive minions to adopt a sane Protocal for the 33rd America's Cup, one in keeping with the protocol for this year's challenge, which was judged a huge success by everyone involved. They would encourage everyone to move forward with a healthy America's Cup in Valencia at a proper time, probably in two years.

That's a good outcome.

The sad fact about the arbitration panel is that it's not an independent group. It's a captive group, created by Prince Alinghi and the Société Nautique de Genève (SNG).

The panel's big issue is simple. Will panel members (appointed by Alinghi) act objectively, in accord with the established traditions of the America's Cup? Or will they do the Prince's bidding?

Panel members (three of them) include Henry Peter, a Swiss mega-lawyer, professor and major participant in Swiss legal, professional and corporate circles, an establishment figure, to be sure; Graham McKenzie, a New Zealand lawyer, sailor, corporate lawyer, and trustee for corporate and civic organizations; and Luis María Cazorla Prieto, a Spanish mega-lawyer, professor, legal author, and lawyer to the Spanish Parliament and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Prieto is the big cat, followed by Henry Peter, a pale imitation, and McKenzie, a good Kiwi.

What they decide is critical. And the greatest challenge they face moving forward is their independence.

Are they legitimate members of an independent panel? Will they decide this issue on its merits? Or will they do the bidding of the Prince who appointed them?

We shall see.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Enough, says Mascalzone Latino

Yesterday, with great diplomacy, Vicenzo Onorato (ITA), the enthusiastic, ebullient chief of the Italian America's Cup team Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia, ('Italian Rascals'), announced a counter-proposal to Alinghi's draconian protocol for the 33rd America's Cup.

Let's run America's Cup 33 with the protocol from the recent series, said Sig. Onorato. Let's restore fairness, objectivity and impartiality to the Challenger series, and to every aspect of America's Cup racing. For the next series, let's use the AC boat class we have now and allow teams to built a new boat if they wish, also rennovate an exisiting boat. It will save money. It will protect the interest of sponsors. And while we understand and accept that Alinghi wants to elevate the excitement of America's Cup with bigger boats, let's introduce the proposed 90-foot class for America's Cup 34, giving everyone (not just Alinghi) a fair chance to design and build competitive boats.

That's certainly fair.

Delicately avoiding any mention of the legitimacy of the Challenger of Record, the Spanish Club Nautico Espanol de Vela (CNEV), Onorato's proposal focused largely on fairness and management issues. And it would be difficult for reasonable people to refute his suggestions. But America's Cup Management (ACM), Alinghi's captive management group, surely will find a way.

In truth, larger syndicates like Oracle and Team New Zealand may disagree with Onorato about the existing boat class. Having exhausted the potential of the current design, they probably agree with Alinghi. Let's build the 90-footers now. But to be fair, let's have time to design and build them. And let's do two boat testing, just like we've done before. Currently boat-on-boat testing is prohibited by the new protocol.

Interestingly, Valencia Sailing ( asked Russell Coutts (NZL), newly-appointed skipper and CEO of Oracle, about Onorato's proposal. Reportedly, Coutts said if Onorato's proposals were accepted by Alinghi, the Golden Gate Yacht Club would probably withdraw its lawsuit in New York.

Overall, a promising development. Ben fatto, Mascalzone Latino!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Arrivederci, Luna Rossa!

Luna Rossa chief Patrizio Bertelli (ITA), left, receives the 2000 Louis Vuitton Cup in Auckland, New Zealand, with skipper Francesco de Angelis, after defeating Paul Cayard's AmericaOne. Today Sig. Bertelli announced Luna Rossa's retirement from America's Cup racing. The Prada team from Italy will not contest the 33rd America's Cup. Over ten years and three Cup events, Luna Rossa distinguished itself with great ambition, great competitiveness, great sailing, great teamwork, and above all, great sportsmanship. In a surprisingly convincing 5-1 series win this year, they defeated BMW Oracle Racing in the Louis Vuitton Cup semifinals, but could not get by Emirates Team New Zealand in the final. We will see more of Helmsman James Spithill (AUS), Tactician Torben Grael (BRA), and other team members. Sadly, Patrizio Bertelli may never return to the America's Cup stage as syndicate head. Mille grazie e tanti auguri, Patrizio Bertelli, e il Team Luna Rossa!

Monday, July 30, 2007

You can't blame Oracle

Larry Ellison (USA), right, congratulates his new skipper and CEO, Russell Coutts (NZL). Russell Coutts is the former skipper and CEO of Alinghi. He was fired by Ernesto Bertarelli (SUI) prior to the 32nd America's Cup. He didn't sail in the regatta.

Skippers aside, Americans and Europeans are different. Europeans live in countries that had (or still have) kings and queens. Americans removed their king and created a democracy. Europeans touch the forelock and tip their hat to grandees in their societies. Americans say hello and shake their hands. Europeans rule, Americans govern. Rich Europeans think like aristocracy. Rich Americans never forget where they came from.

Larry Ellison, the American chief of Oracle, couldn't be more different from Ernesto Bertarelli, the Swiss king of Alinghi.

If you've lived in America, you know what America is about. Beyond the headlines, there is a profound respect for the rule of law, honor and integrity, respect for others, and a shared belief in what's right, what's wrong, and what's fair. A country as diverse as America doesn't exist unless everyone shares the same view. For better or worse, they do. America works.

And sportsmanship in the U.S. isn't an abstraction. It's a reality that's taught -- and lived -- in schools and sports, starting in kindergarten. It's right up there with honor, integrity, and truth.

In the minds of reasonable Americans, it's unconscionable that an America's Cup winner like Alinghi would draft such a bizarre, totalitarian protocol for the 33rd America's Cup.

Larry Ellison and the Golden Gate Yacht Club of San Francisco share the same view. Realizing that Bertarelli and his three captive entities (the Geneva Yacht Club, the bogus yacht club in Valencia (CNEV), and ACM, the management authority for America's Cup) think together as one, GGYC filed suit in New York.

Are Ellison and GGYC insane? No, they are not. Are they unsportsmanlike? Absolutely not. Are they upholding conventional views of honor, integrity and fairness? Yes. Is Ellison an out-of-control billionaire? I don't think so. Just listen to his recorded comments online. He is cool, rational, and considerate.

From his perspective, Alinghi's command of the America's Cup protocol defies logic, defies reason, and defies sportsmanship, as any reasonable person sees it.

That's a view shared worldwide.

Alinghi's perspective is absolute. We won. We have the protocol. We have total control of everything. We'll do what we want. We don't care about you. Come get us!

Ellison, by contrast, is measured. This isn't the America's Cup I know, he says. This certainly isn't sportsmanship as we know it. There's nothing anywhere in the Deed of Gift that allows for this. Alinghi's actions are defiantly arrogant and egregious. It hurts us, and all of us who are part of America's Cup.

Fortunately, the Deed of Gift is safe ground. Let's take Alinghi decision making to the Court where the deed is adjudicated and let's ask the court for an opinion.

Which is what's happening.

That's hard to argue with.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

What has happened so far?

Well, Mr. Alinghi won the 32nd America's Cup, fair and square. Great boat, great sailing, great teamwork. Thanks to Ernesto Bertarelli's passion, and Brad Butterworth's canny skill, Switzerland defends the America's Cup, yet again. All kudos to them.

There was one cheap, pathetic, and unfortunate note. It was Alinghi's arrogance, self-absorption and lack of sportsmanship. They refused to invite Emirates Team New Zealand join them on the winners podium, receive kudos for their own valiant efforts, and enjoy the festivities of the best America's Cup in history, probably one of the greatest sporting events ever. The Kiwis weren't invited and weren't even congratulated. It's a totally self-focused Alinghi affair.

Nobody liked this, not even some Alinghi team members. Then, after the festivities, all hell breaks loose. Mr. Alinghi's captive companions, the Geneva Yacht Club and the America's Cup management authority (a Bertarelli property), announce the new 33rd America's Cup protocol. Lo and behold, it's an Alinghi affair. In the next America's Cup, Alinghi decides everything. No challenger involvement in the protocol. No say in the design of the boats. No role in the competition of the challenger series. Everything belongs to Alinghi.

Alinghi annoints a Challenger of Record, a yacht club in Valencia that didn't exist the day before the final of the America's Cup, built around Desafio Espagnol, the Spanish challenger in AC32. Not only had this club never existed before, but it never held a regatta ever, of any kind, anywhere. All of this in violation of the Deed of Gift, the ancient document that defines the honor and integrity of the America's Cup.

For the 33rd America's Cup, Alinghi decides it can do anything it wants, at any time, about anything, and decide any detail, large or small, without input from anyone, and without debate. They can even dismiss any challenger, for any reason whatsoever, without explanation, whenever they feel like it, without any opportunity for the challenger to protest.

There will be no independent race and rules committees, either. These will be Alinghi appointees. In fact, there's nothing for anyone except Alinghi. It's all about Alinghi.

This was a shocker, but expected, according to the cynics.

Then the next expected thing happens.

Oracle goes litigious.