Wednesday, August 27, 2008

This is a boat (AC 33)

It looks like a bird of prey.

It's BMW Oracle Racing (USA)'s new trimaran, 90 ft. x 90 ft., in a picture from their website.

It will prey upon Alinghi (SUI)'s trimaran, which none of us have ever seen.

We suppose the Prince of Alinghi (SUI) and his naval architects are designing and building -- or have designed and built -- a competitor that can match this condor-like vessel.

But we have heard nothing, not even from Alinghi voices. And we have seen nothing, not even fron Alinghi spies.

Strung out under the lines of the crane, this amazing raptor looks ready to soar and steal victories capturing meaty morsels for the Golden Gate Yacht Club (USA).

Perhaps Prince Ernesto has a vessel like this, hidden away in the yards of Lake Geneva, just as beautiful as this, and as beautifully built. Or perhaps he has one half the size, gathering moss, on a lake berth somewhere.

Soon, we shall hear.

Monday, August 4, 2008

It depends on what the meaning of "its" is

The reversal of Justice Herman Cahn's ruling in the New York Supreme Court in favor of Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) over the acceptance of Club Náutico Español de Vela (CNEV) as Challenger of Record for America's Cup 33 is extraordinary.

The opinion authored by Justice Leland DeGrasse of the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division is a healthy reminder that lawyers, judges and law clerks are the last people on earth to consult about the English language.

Asserting that the reversal turns on the meaning of the accursed language "having for its annual regatta", Justice DeGrasse and his clerks drew some very strange conclusions and cited bizarre examples from literature. Bizarre is the word for it.

GGYC argued that "having" means "possesses"; the idea of having is possessive. Fine. But it can't be possessive, says DeGrasse. You can't possess a regatta. Are we serious?

The opinion then quotes disturbing literary examples to discuss the participle "having" and a participle's inherent lack of tense, which derives from its verb, not itself.

Bizarre, and meaningless, and irrelevant.

Writers know that if you encounter a writing challenge, throw Strunk at it. That's William Strunk, Jr.'s guide to plain writing, The Elements of Style (1918), edited and revised in the 1960s by E.B. White, a sailor, father of Joel White, naval architect.

So what did George Schuyler (author of the Deed of Gift) actually mean?

This is what he wrote -- and what everybody is debating -- "Any organized Yacht Club of a foreign country, incorporated, patented, or licensed by the legislature, admiralty, or other executive department, having for its annual regatta an ocean water course on the sea, or on an arm of the sea, or one which combines both, shall always be entitled to the right of sailing a match of this Cup, with a yacht or vessel propelled by sails only and constructed in the country to which the Challenging Club belongs, against any one yacht or vessel constructed in the country of the Club holding the Cup."

Apply Strunk's common sense. Eliminate extraneous data. This is what Schuyler meant:

Any organized Yacht Club having an ocean water course on the sea for its annual regatta shall always be entitled to the right of sailing a match of this Cup.

It's not about "having". That refers to the ocean water course.

The meat is "its annual regatta".

Apply Strunk again. Ask CNEV the simple question: Do you have an annual regatta?

The answer is no. Resoundingly, no.

It's that simple.

"Having" is a big, fat, red herring.

On the day it mattered, CNEV did not have an annual regatta, and had never had an annual regatta. And only considered organizing an annual regatta when the storm signals were hoisted.

GGYC needs Strunk.