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.