Monday, September 29, 2008

Read Golden Gate Yacht Club's appeal

Sailing Scuttlebutt's esteemed authority Cory Friedman, Esq. will undoubtedly adjudicate the appeal by Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC), but you should take an hour or two to read the appeal by Latham & Watkins of New York, attorneys for GGYC, or read the summary of the appeal published on the GGYC website.

Mary Mahoney, an attorney at Latham, folks say, is a force behind the appeal.

It's extraordinarily well written, as we imagine legal documents should be (although we defer to Mr. Friedman's assessment of the legal aspects). To the casual and intelligent observer, however, the case made by GGYC is enlightening.

It's not built on legal abstractions.

It's the Deed of Gift, stupid.

George Schuyler, author of the Deed of Gift, says GGYC, wrote an extraordinarily simple and clear document, and was twice asked to clarify certain conditions by the New York Yacht Club, into whose hands he placed his Trust. He complied with their requests, strengthening provisions that have to do with prospective challengers.

Apparently, he strengthened an already strong deed.

GGYC's appeal stresses the simplicty and clarity of the Deed, urging the New York State Court of Appeals to stay within the confines -- the four corners -- of the Deed and to respect Schuyler's open, honest and clear intent.

And the references in GGYC's appeal, interestingly, cite trust law, which is a rich turf for lawyers in New York, and which in this case, relate to the Deed of Gift as a trust, which of course it is.

Nothing about this historic document is absurd or inexplicable, says GGYC, nor can it possibly be construed to mean that a door is left wide open for slackers, never-do-wells, or faux yacht clubs. 

Schuyler thought his document through with sincerity, offered plain detail, and within his simple construction, lawyers say, truth can be found.

Not that this will mean anything to Alinghi (SUI), sailing team of Société Nautique de Genève (SNG), defending yacht club of the America's Cup.

Nevertheless, Alinghi and SNG are probably concerned about the prospective judgment of the New York Court of Appeals.

Perhaps that's why Alinghi's chief Ernesto Bertarelli (SUI) met with Larry Ellison (USA) of BMW Oracle, sailing team of Golden Gate Yacht Club of San Francisco, this weekend.

Perhaps they have already reviewed GGYC's appeal.

Perhaps their lawyers are urging discussion.

Meanwhile, those same Alinghi lawyers are trying to 'invisiblize' the Deed of Gift (DOG) race in 90-foot multihulls, principally because they don't have a multihull, they aren't building one, and won't ever have a 90-foot multihull to enter, ever, wherever any DOG race will be held.

Not that they will ever admit that.

However, if you happened to be in their situation, you would probably bust a gut to prove that the DOG contest is a myth and that no response shipbuildingwise is necessary -- which is exactly what Alinghi lawyers are trying to prove.

Meanwhile, the GGYC's appeal should send a chill down the spine of even the most heartiest SNG members.

If I were Alinghi, I would scamper back to Valencia, and reset the clock to July 4, 2007.

Then I would behave myself, do the right thing, and keep my fingers crossed.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

'Cordial' and 'Positive' sound rather like exit strategies

A meeting was held. It was decided to hold another meeting.

Larry Ellison (USA) chief of BMW Oracle, sailing team of San Francisco's Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC), and Ernesto Bertarelli (SUI), Prince of the Alinghi team of Société Nautique de Genève (SNG), met over the weekend in California.

BMW Oracle reported the talks as 'cordial', and offered to withdraw from the Courts of New York if America's Cup 33 was conducted as a multi-nation event along the lines of AC32.

Alinghi reported the talks as 'postive', and assured the world both teams share a passion for sailing, on the water, and hope to resume that soon.

Meanwhile, nothing happened.

Or a lot happened.

This may be the mating dance for an honorable, managed retreat for both parties. 

For Alinghi, an escape from certain bankruptcy, given its total lack of sponsors for any kind of sailing event, anywhere, even P-Class dinghies on Lake Geneva for the grandchildren of members of SNG. And a tremendous relief from its bruta figura -- and humongous loss of face -- in failing to deliver a 90-foot multihull  for a Deed of Gift race that its lawyers are now scrambling to prove cannot possibly exist.

And for BMW Oracle, an opportunity to depart the New York legal system, hopefully forever, effectively terminating a distracting, clattering fandango that has gone on far too long, too noisily, and undoubtedly cost far more than anyone ever intented, including the Plaintiff.

After all, the DOG race was a bold bluff by GGYC that SUI called. Both clubs have been living with the consequences ever since. Both, assuredly, are regretting decisions that were made when everyone was younger.

Now, the real question is -- actually there are four of them:

(1)  When will AC33 happen, and where?

(2)  Will teams sail existing AC32 boats, or build new designs?

(3)  Will the attention and affections of Bruno Troublé of Louis Vuitton, AC Sponsor Emeritus, ever be recaptured, now that he has vested his passion, commitment and dollars in the new Louis Vuitton Pacific Cup, a cheerful reunion of AC32 participants to be staged in Auckland, New Zealand, in February 2009?

(4)  If Louis Vuitton cannot return -- or elects not to return -- who on earth will step up?

What other agenda can there be?

A new protocol? 

No, please, God forbid. Nobody is that insane.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Expect vituperation from Société Nautique de Genève (and from us, a prayer for the future)

An aristocrat of the mountain nation's Société Nautique de Genève (SNG), Commodore Pierre-Yves Firmenich (SUI), and his executive, Secretary-General Alec Tournier (SUI), have engaged San Francisco's Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) in a letter-writing contest.

"You failed to provide timely certification of your horrendously huge trimaran, in accordance with the provisions of the blah, blah, blah," they wrote. "Now we have no alternative but to blah, blah, blah; and then blah, blah,blah" they concluded.

Shots across the bow.

GGYC's courteous and restrained Commodore Marcus Young replied in similar terms, without ad hominem tactics or threats. And he promised a civil disengagement from whatever obliged GGYC to whatever, at some point in the proceedings, somewhere in there, somewhere along the line, somehow.

Which is fine.

Superficially, it looks like a dance among commodores.

From the alpine people, however, don't misunderstand the intention.

It's a dance to delay, confuse and diffuse the fact they don't have a trimaran of 90-feet, they aren't building a trimaran of 90-feet, and they have no intentions of building a trimaran of 90-feet. Period.

For our friends at GGYC, it's a step to disengage from their obligations as Challenger of Record, in whatever contest they were challening, wherever it was staged, or why, in order to compete and achieve something, somehow.

Can you keep track of this?

Regardless, we can be sure that the next brickbat in this engagement will be a vituperative onslaught from the noisemaker at SNG, His Earnestness, Vice Commodore Fred Meyer (SUI).

The Vice Commodore will harass GGYC's sailing team, BMW Oracle, for failing to win on the water, preferring instead to sail in the Courts of New York.

He will fire a phosphorus flare at Russell Coutts (NZL), skipper of BMW Oracle, just so he can pay a tidy Swiss insult to the Kiwi sailor.

Then, as per usual, he will disappear until the next onslaught.

The fact is, there's no Alinghi trimaran. And there never will be.

The House of Cards factor is that the Cold Water Yacht Club (SNG) is ever-so-slowly collapsing, thanks to a paucity of defensive strategies.

Pretty soon, we project, we will see the rubbing of SNG's hull on the hard shallow stones of the foreshore of reality.

SNG are pooped. AC is pooped, likewise. And GGYC is trying to do everything they can to salvage something out of this, as they watch Louis Vuitton's Bruno Troublé (FRA) defect to Auckland, New Zealand, to stage some wonderful AC32-style pyrotechnics in the one city down under that still loves America's Cup.

Given the heated penmanship, GGYC remains the intelligent participant, we aver. And SNG is fighting a defensive, losing battle.

Our greatest fear, sadly, is that public opinion will diss America's Cup as a wretched excess, a collossal failure, and a calamity of pride, and then depart the stage, muttering silently.

Our prayer is a simple one.

Ernesto stop. Larry stop. All nations, stop. Courts stop. Vice Commodore Myer stop.

Let's have a fabulous AC33 in re-engineered old boats in Valencia. Let's have a great time in the sun in Spain, as soon as humanly possible. Next year, if possible.

Then, together, let us build the biggest, scariest AC34 ever. The biggest, rangiest boats ever. No holds barred!

(Even if we have to take Bruno Troublé to lunch to explain that he can, personally, for his fabulous company LVMH, usher into existence -- not the re-entry of an artifact from sailing history -- but a new standard that changes the competitive sailing world as we know it, and moves naval architecture and innovative yacht design to an absolutely higher plane.)

Which is good.

But first, please, AC33.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Auckland, City of Sails

Well, except for a branded spinnaker, some of those sails will soon belong to Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL).

In Auckland this summer (winter for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere), inshore, on the Hauraki Gulf, those fabulous ETNZ workhorses -- NZL92 and NZL84 -- will carry crews from five or more America's Cup teams, in pursuit of a wonderful prize sponsored by Louis Vuitton.

This isn't the America's Cup. This isn't an ersatz America's Cup.

This is a genuine, authentic, and celebratory way for the world's finest America's Cup sponsor, Louis Vuitton, and their sailor leader, Bruno Troublé (FRA), to raise the flag for sailing passion, sportsmanship, and enthusiasm in an AC world that has been dull as ditchwater, and enormously confusing, for months.

Best of all, it will allow AC brands like Emirates, BMW Oracle, and many others (and we hope Alinghi (SUI)) to return to the water, employ crews, come together, enjoy the spirit and camaraderie of AC racing -- AC32 style -- to reward their sponsors, earn some money, perhaps win, and do so in the Valencia of the South -- Auckland, New Zealand.

Instead of oranges as the juice for this event, think kiwifruit. And perhaps a little beer.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, an AC fan, has authorized the investment of $NZ750,000 to support the series. Similarly, the Hon. John Banks, Mayor of Auckland and former New Zealand Minister of Sport, has offered the support of his city, its agencies, and the oceans of volunteers required for the event.

In Auckland, these volunteers won't be hard to find. In fact, it will be difficult to keep every Aucklander onshore. Most will insist on being on the water.

Kudos and congratulations must be given to Bruno Troublé and Grant Dalton (NZL), who apparently engineered this. And the French luxury brand, LVMH, must be given Great Kudos for their support of Bruno Troublé in his untiring commitment to first class sailing, great sportsmanship, great teammanship, and great competition. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark completes the hierarchy. As do the people of Auckland, who will make this fabulous event a fabulous experience. Believe me.

Perhaps the extraordinary spirit of the Louis Vuitton Pacific Cup will also return passion -- and competition -- and fairness -- and reality -- to AC33, 34 , 35, 36 . . .

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ernesto's Protocol of the Imagination

You have to hand it to him.

The Prince of Alinghi, Ernesto Bertarelli (SUI),  is probably the best public relations diffuser on the planet.

Not only does he adeptly deflect criticism of his infamous, scorched-earth Protocol for the 33rd America's Cup with his answers in the Porto Cervo interview conducted by the Italian editors of the sailing website, Zero Gradi Nord, as reported by Valencia Sailing on Sept. 8, 2008. 

But Ernesto, amazingly, also finds a way to dispense with the original 33rd Protocol itself and put in its place a Protocol of the Imagination, where every megalomaniacal detail is suppressed and a litany of pathetically tiny adjustments, forged by stunned AC33 hopefuls, takes center stage as the defining document for a sporting event that, the Prince despairs, was wrenched from his perfectly clean, sanctified hands by the egregious and despicable desires of Larry Ellison (USA), the litigiously obsessed head of BMW Oracle.

That Ernesto is capable of such extraordinary sleight of hand -- and can achieve it with such reckless abandon in the face of truth -- would be extraordinary, if it wasn't so chilling.

"What is it with this man?" we recently asked the chief executive of a major team sponsor in America's Cup 32.

"Something in his childhood," he replied.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Where is Alinghi's 90-footer?

Certainly, they have a boat under construction.

Certainly, it has been designed, laid up, formed, constructed, laminated, shaped, smoothed, set, sealed, layered, painted, sealed, polished, and ...

Yet where is Alinghi's (SUI) vessel?

When will we see the Alinghi trident making its delicate, testing sailing ventures on Lake Geneva, where, assuredly, it was built.

We are all watching and waiting.