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!