Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Sanity of the Judiciary

The brilliance of what was handed down today by Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich in the Supreme Court of the State of New York is, in its own way, definitive, and frankly, emblematic.

In a nutshell, Justice Kornreich asserted that load on the waterline means exactly that – load on the waterline. All loaded ballast should be taken into account when measuring defender and challenger vessels engaged in America’s Cup 33.

In addition, she ruled, Valencia serves as a viable venue for the defense.

And the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) – despite its so-called ‘covert’ agreements with the America’s Cup defender, Société Nautique de Genève (SNG) – has assured the Court that it will appoint an independent jury to adjudicate any, all, and potential AC33 disputes, and that this independent jury will be free from interference by SNG.

Which is something, certainly.

Amazingly, both the AC33 Challenger, Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC), and Defender (SNG), apparently acquiesced with the Justice Kornreich's decision. Yet the Justice, a tough-minded jurist, has demanded confirmation from both parties.

Which is legal stuff.

For the rest of us, the message is that something decidedly non-legal, non-litigious, and non-lawyerly decided this event.

Key to Justice Kornreich’s deliberations was a panel of three expert jurors, appointed in turn by GGYC (1 juror), SNG (1 juror), and a third juror, appointed by the jurors nominated by GGYC and SNG.

This is noteworthy.

Apart from the fact that it’s yet another move in the Great Game of Chess that is America’s Cup 33, Justice Kornreich, in fact, asked sailors to assist in her deliberations.

Sailors, as in veteran sailing officials.

Where experience, common sense, fairness, and objectivity reside.

And where classic racing rules are respected.

Which makes us wonder.

Why has it taken millions and millions of dollars in legal fees, months and months of wasted time, and billions and billions of words – fair, meaningless, and vituperative – to get where we are now?

Couldn’t the world that is America's Cup have achieved this – or some of this – or a lot of this – by asking fair-minded sportsmen, their sailing clubs, and their advisors to sit down together, in July 2007, and work this through?

Of course, they could.

Any reason why it didn't happen?

That’s for history to decide. You have your view.

But it’s hard to say that Larry Ellison (USA), owner of BMW Oracle, GGYC’s sailing team, is the villain here. All Ellison has ever wanted is fair rules, American style. Look it up.

It’s easier to say that Ernesto Bertarelli (SUI), owner of Alinghi, SNG’s sailing team, was not interested in a fair contest, not interested in protecting the traditions of America’s Cup, not motivated by sportsmanship – but to the contrary, was motivated by the manifold concerns of a sports promoter, a deal maker, a manipulator, a self-dealer, a major dissembler, working back from a projected, desired goal (victory in AC33 at any cost) to what he and his cohorts had to do to make that happen.

Maybe that’s a Swiss thing. Or a European thing.

It certainly isn’t American.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New York Justice Decks RAK

In a surprisingly brisk judgment from the bench, Justice Shirley W. Kornreich of the New York State Supreme Court in Albany, New York, today eliminated Ras Al Khaimah as the location for America’s Cup 33, ruling in favor of Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC), the America’s Cup challenger, over Société Nautique de Genève (SNG), the defender.

Leaving the door wide open for Valencia as the venue for AC33 – and for an SNG appeal – the Judge then waded into deep water on other matters, including rules, changing rules, and who changes them; length-on-the-waterline measurements, not including the rudder, except on toy boats, which don’t count; and ballast, movable ballast, and other weighty issues.

Justice Kornreich, apparently, will soon rule on the remaining items.

According to courtroom observers from the AC Anarchy division of the website Sailing Anarchy, which provided members with gavel-to-gavel coverage online, the eminent David Boies of Boies, Schiller & Flexner of New York, acting for GGYC, was as out of his depth as the good Justice herself on boats, racing and rules
– neither of them helped by the ultimately defeated Barry R. Ostrager of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, head of litigation at that firm and a known dissembler, acting for SNG.

GGYC awaits the Justice’s ruling on other matters, but pockets a considerable victory.

SNG, their legal team, and sailing team Alinghi, represented in the courtroom by Skipper Brad Butterworth (NZL), must feel like stunned mullets.

Shown respect by Justice Kornreich for their perspective on security matters, but only briefly, officials from Ras Al Khaimah are now left with a half-completed facility in the desert which, if ultimately completed, will enhance their resort but will not host an international sailing event.

At least, not any time soon.

Given the definitive outcome, curious observers could be forgiven for wondering why on earth SNG and Alinghi felt that Ras Al Khaimah was the perfect location for AC33 in the first place; how they possibly could have expected GGYC to support this bizarre decision; or how their understanding of the plain language of the venerable Deed of Gift could be so badly informed.

The image we have in our mind is of a wild and reckless 17-year-old on a Hobie Cat, tearing along on a scorching breeze, on a direct line for the marina and the vessels moored there, with absolutely no idea how to turn, slow, stop, or avoid the imminent catastrophe.

He looks a lot like Ernesto Bertarelli (SUI).

Monday, October 26, 2009

Armageddon, Dirty Bert, and the Disgrace of America's Cup 33

“In exchange for selecting Ras Al Khaimah to host the 33rd America’s Cup, SNG (Société Nautique de Genève) secured the following commitments, among others: the Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority (“RAKIA”) agreed to finance a shipyard to be built in Ras Al Khaimah by Décision SA, a Swiss yacht-building firm that has built all five of SNG’s America’s Cup racing yachts and which is owned in part by Ernestor Bertarelli (SUI), who controls SNG’s racing team, Alinghi.”

Does that sound to you like self-dealing?

Well, that’s just part of it.

“RAKIA agreed to finance the building of a campus in Ras Al Khaimah for Ecole Pol(y)technique Fédérale de Lausanne (“EPFL”), a Swiss institution that has served as a scientific advisor and partner to Alinghi since 2003 and has played an important role in the design of Alinghi 5, the catamaran SNG/Alinghi built to defend the 33rd America’s Cup; and RAKIA agreed to provide funding for EPFL’s Center for Neuroprostheses, which is overseen by five chairs, two of which are endowed by the Bertarelli Foundation, a foundation established by the Bertarelli family, including Ernesto Bertarelli, to manage and fund the family’s philanthropic interests.”

All this from a complaint filed in the New York Supreme Court by the mega-mega-law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner of New York, acting for the America’s Cup Challenger of Record, Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) of San Francisco.

With the dull clethunk of a court clerk's rubber stamp, Société Nautique de Genève's trusteeship of the America's Cup has been formally challenged.

Perhaps fatally.

What it isn’t discussed in the complaint, of course, is the highly theoretical, abstract, and fanciful possibility that Ernesto’s cost of construction of his magnificent catamaran, Alinghi 5, was seriously discounted by Décision, a boat builder, in favor of a choice by SNG of RAK as a location for the defense of AC33, where Décision is seriously invested.

But is that possible? Could that happen? We have no idea. It would take legal discovery to discover it.

Perhaps that could happen.

Otherwise, Boies’s complaint hammers one fact after another in a punishing repudiation of SNG’s behavior as a as Trustee of the America’s Cup.

Virtually everything about the AC33 defense is a sham, says the complaint. Effectively, SNG's defense is a slap in the face to the venerable Deed of Gift, the august document that controls America’s Cup.

Articulated in the complaint:

Alinghi’s arbitrary, bizarre and total control of the rules, without exception.

A secret pact agreed with the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) to control the rules, including – amazingly – the emasculation of ISAF in an abrupt and definitive way, decidedly neutering the world’s sailing authority, relative to AC33, authorizing them to do virtually nothing.

Measurement mania, in violation of the Deed of Gift, which favors the picayune measurement of the competing vessel in favor of Alinghi.

Mortal danger – well, not to put too fine a point on it – the risks of the impacts of war – in the waters off Ras Al Khaimah, which are less than 20 miles from Iran. All of which is a very serious consideration for any owner, club member, sponsor, or fan who wishes to bring a private vessel to the RAK location – given that no navigable way exists to get there without reckless exposure to threats from pirates (who are routinely successful) or aggressive Iranian Navy commanders (who don’t hesitate to act).

Self-dealing deals in Valencia – even before AC32, deals were concluded involving Bertarelli real estate, infertility clinics, and Ernesto’s mega-pharmaceutical firm. This is icky.

The failed proposition of Real Federaćion Español de Vela (RFEV), as a potential cup challenger, and its subsequent substitution by the pathetic and inadequate Club Náutico Español de Vela (CNEV), manifestly not a club.

Total control by Alinghi and SNG over anything and everything, including who can challenge for AC33 and enter, and who cannot, as well as the race committee, competition judges, and every other official, including the class rules themselves, racing rules, and the details of the challenger series, and a lot more – literally and absolutely everything, without exception, under Alinghi's control.

The AC Defender (Alinghi) as a virtual challenger – meaning Alinghi’s ability to compete in the challenger series, even if their performance negatively affects the standings of other competitors.

All of that, and more.

It’s amazing.

Suddenly, everything you ever felt was wrong about AC33 – and more – has been laid before the Courts of New York by Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC), in an attempt to bring the Depravity of America’s Cup to an end, in a major way.

Will sanity prevail?

Well, AC33 at Ras Al Khaimah may happen. Then again, it may not.

But the issue of SNG’s breech of responsibility as an America’s Cup trustee will survive RAK.

This issue will not be decided in racing that takes place on the war-infested, headland-sheltered waters off a narrow, barren piece of desert land that points to the heart of Iran.

It will be decided in the Courts of New York.

And this will decide the future of America’s Cup.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

America's Cup Chess

I open with my pawn (e4).

You open with your pawn (e5).

Then I move my bishop (b5). And so on. Remember?

Somewhere beyond the standard openings, things get interesting.

It reminds me of America's Cup.

Knowing that movable ballast will plunge their vessel's length on the waterline over the limits imposed by the Deed of Gift, Société Nautique de Genève (SNG) decides, for the first time ever in America's Cup history, to include the rudder of the competitive vessel (the trimaran of Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC)) in that vessel's waterline measurement, forcing it over the limit imposed by the Deed of Gift. Ha, ha!

That's e4.

GGYC responds by challenging SNG's movable ballast, reminding SNG that the Deed requires every element of the vessel's racing load to be aboard for measurement, as SNG (in dissembling mode) avers their ballast isn't part of the racing load.

That's e5.

GGYC marks their response by punching the mega-clock of mega-lawyer David Boies of the mega-law firm, Boies, Schiller & Flexner, LLP, who files a memorandum of law in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in support of GGYC (a document that was very well written and very clearly articulated, we might add, at least for lubbers like us).

That's Bp5.

Meanwhile, His Excellency Fred Meyer (SUI), Vice Commodore of SNG, departs from all convention, repudiates his prior behaviors, flaunts elaborate courtesies, and writes a surprisingly temperate, respectful letter to his senior counterpart at GGYC, Commodore Marcus Young (USA).

From Vice Commodore Meyer, this, also, is a first in America's Cup history.

The dust barely settled on his powdered peruke, the Vice Commodore brings greetings from the Alpine nation, enquires into the health of the California Commodore and his colleagues, family and friends, utters felicitations of joy, and shares abundant blessings . . . well, no, that's overdoing it.

But Vice Commodore Meyer overdid it also.

In the first mannered letter he has ever written, Meyer sought to document that GGYC representatives had actually visited the desert port of Ras el-Khaimah, in the United Arab Emirates, and uttered nice remarks about preparations there for America's Cup 33.


Well, that's chess. It's a move.

At some point in the Grand Tour of the Courts of New York, SNG will seek to prove, somehow, some way, whatever actually happened, and whatever GGYC subsequently did, that GGYC actually visited the Middle East venue, and liked it.

And here is Myer's letter to prove it.

Anyway, that's the middle game.

Your move.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Now there are two America's Cups

Well, there's one, a real America's Cup.

Possibly, it's about to be sailed off Ras el-Khaimah, in the United Arab Emirates, close to a war zone, close to pirate havens, so close that no private vessel of any owner, commander, captain, master, mate or loblolly-boy could ever get there without having to pass through (i) a war zone, or (ii) pirate waters, whichever is worse, whether they come from the Suez Canal or the Indian Ocean.

So that's one America's Cup, if that's what you want to call it. Some call it AC33.

Then there's another America's Cup.

This America's Cup is redolent in the bright, bouncing, baby child born of a union between luxury goods marketer Louis Vuitton and the rest of the America's Cup universe, otherwise known as Those-Not-Participating-in-America's-Cup-33, all of whom (potentially and in reality) were escorted to the altar by the Hon. Grant Dalton, Father-in-Law-in-Chief, chief executive of America's Cup Team New Zealand.

This second America's Cup is a one class event, currently debating its reality with World Match Racing authorities over the use of the word "world" and perhaps over other items, all of which are arcane, minute, and will be satisfied only by a bureaucrat's passion for details.


Bruno Troublé (of Louis Vuitton), who is not to be outdone as a major sailor and a sponsor with the power to express his feelings and opinions, is pushing forward with his concept, and with his expansion of his successful One-Class-AC-Class-Version-5-Class America's Cup style event, held for the first time in Auckland, New Zealand, which just happens to be Bruno's favorite South Pacific port.

It will only take sheer failure, a meltdown, a fusion of failure factors for his series not to take hold and establish an AC-style, AC-level event, however the competition is designed, and whatever boats are used, deployed, developed -- or even built from scratch -- in order for the great sailors of the planet to compete in this event. And enjoy it.

So, naturally, M. Troublé's event will succeed, so long as there are AC Version 5 boats to sustain it, short term, and other designs to sustain it, medium term.

Longer term?

Well, that's an issue.

If Alinghi and BMWOracle pursue their duel in RAK, and one wins, and one loses, and if any loss or win in the event is taken to the Courts (like the Bush-Gore election), then I think we can say, assuredly, that the America's Cup, as we know it, is dead.

In that case, the Trustees (who have sponsored America's Cup teams), in uniform, will act.

If that happens, America's Cup is all ahoo, if it wasn't already.

Ready to replace it will be the first, most viable alternative -- the Louis Vuitton America's Cup One Class event.

The Trustees could actually engineer that to make it happen.

If they don't, what on earth would they engineer? Apply the Deed of Gift? Properly, yes. But God help us! Didn't that just happen? Yes. What next? God knows.

Nevertheless, Bruno wins. He has a defined event, an international event, and event that transcends "racing boats in salt water" and becomes, literally, the high end of yacht racing, just like Ernesto (Bertarelli (SUI), defender of America's Cup) imagined.

Actually, the Formula One of Sailboat Racing.

Or whatever it may be called.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Dumbing Down of America's Cup 33

Nobody has noticed this.

It’s been going on for a while now, no, really, for some time.

It’s not about the New York Courts.

It’s not about Ernesto Bertarelli (SUI), the Prince of Alinghi, head of the America’s Cup sailing team of the cold water sailing club Société Nautique de Genève (SNG).

It’s not about His Excellency the Honorable Voicebox, Fred Meyer, Vice Commodore and Yammerer-in-Chief of SNG. (It should be noted that Commodore Meyer cheerfully takes the heat for his Commodore, Pierre-Yves Firmenich, a gentleman of the old order who tends to his fragrance business and adopts a profile approximating that of the water level of Lake Geneva.)

It’s not about Larry Ellison (USA), founder of BMWOracle, the biblical Lot of the sailing world, an individual who can suffer multiple afflictions (including Ernesto, SNG, and the Courts of New York) and still get up in the morning, dress, organize his life, and go to work to brilliantly and successfully guide the global corporation he created from scratch, an organization that virtually defined the database software industry. Could you do that?

It’s not about Marcus Young (USA), apparently a very nice man, who works in the public relations industry, whom virtually nobody has ever met, who adopts a profile approximating that of Pierre-Yves Firmenich (actually lower, on San Francisco Bay), and is known to the America’s Cup community by his signature on beautifully phrased, coolly rational, and utterly logical letters to his Swiss counterpart (well, counterpart but one) HEHV Meyer, YIC.

This amazingness, frankly, is not even about Sir Russell Coutts (NZL), chief executive of BMWOracle, whose appellation of knighthood was restored to him and scores of other extraordinary Kiwis by the new Prime Minister John Key, just recently.

It’s not about Brad Butterworth (NZL), for crying out loud, the canny sailor we love to hate, who not only is Coutts’s great friend and counterpart at Alinghi, but who, despite what everyone says back home, is still a great Kiwi, a great sailor, and a genius who comes from the Waikato, after all. And all of us appreciate that.

It’s not even about the Cold Shudder of Lawyers, all of whom are doing very well out of the America’s Cup.

Actually, it is about all these characters, all of whom actually command America’s Cup, all of whom like to think they control the America’s Cup, but . . .


America’s Cup has become such a casino that nobody knows how to talk to anyone, anymore.

Nobody knows how to address anyone in civil terms. Nobody even wants to talk to anybody else, anyway, about anything under the sun whatsoever, especially America's Cup 33.

People have forgotten how to talk to other people, even if they wanted to do that, which they don’t, and if they did, they'd call the lawyers. Which is ridiculous.

It’s literally Alice in Wonderland. Toad of Toad Hall. Craziland.

We don’t know anything more than you know, and we know that you know nothing. But we do know that everyone on the planet hates what is happening to America’s Cup, with a passion, including you.

We wish sanity would prevail.

Which includes a lot of great sailors and great pontificators, on both sides of the issue, and on both teams.

Which includes us.


In our view, there are three ways to move forward:

(1) Ernesto and Larry -- or Larry and Ernesto -- personally and exclusively have the power to get together and agree on the outcome – a victor who can win fairly – and then decide what that actually means. Absolutely, they can.

(2) Then, they can adjudicate the details between themselves, by themselves, leaving the panjandrum of fakirs of both teams behind, all of whom can take their coffee and their baco-cheese panini elsewhere.

(3) When Larry and Ernesto ultimately come to terms, they can tell the world that the race is set, where it is will be staged, what the competing vessels must adhere to and not exceed, and when everyone has to get together to make the contest happen, including all of us who are sitting on the sidelines railing about everything about AC33 and about everything else under the sun, including hemispheric venues in nasty (and pretty) places.

Larry and Ernesto -- or Ernesto and Larry -- can make this happen by lunchtime.

Let’s encourage this.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Let's take a moment

New Zealanders live farther away from the world than almost anyone, except Falkland Islanders.

To experience what the world has to offer, Kiwis leave home.

Most go to Australia, and live fabulous lives there, and a great many stay there. More and more Kiwis, now as always, keep moving – to London, Europe, Asia, Canada, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Russia, the United States.

Unlike a lot of expats, who typically stick together in supportive communities, Kiwis assimilate easily. They make friends with the locals. Identify with the new place. Become part of the new environment. Sometimes, they stay connected with fellow Kiwi expats, but just as often slip away to build new, independent lives.

People say there could be a million Kiwis or more spread out around the globe.

However they live their new lives and whatever they do in the world, a big piece of every New Zealander’s heart and soul stays fixed in Aotearoa. What doesn’t stay there is spliced to a cable that’s firmly anchored in the island nation and pays out as they travel around the planet. Nothing can break that connection.

This week, a much loved Kiwi will be taken home to New Zealand from Valencia.

Paul Wallbank (NZL), formerly team trainer for BMW Oracle, died suddenly last Sunday. He was an energetic, enthusiastic professional who loved his business and made a multitude of connections among his teammates, associates and clients – from heavyweight Kiwi boxer David Tua to Auckland business executives who trusted him to keep them in shape and who dedicated themselves to his regimes, as well as Valencians he got to know in Spain, and who got to know him.

After his BMWOracle career, Paul Wallbank was planning to build a training studio in Valencia.

Now his friends from BMW Oracle will be taking him home. Russell Coutts (NZL), BMW Oracle CEO, will be there with them.

This is as important for his teammates as it will be for Paul Wallbank’s family, and our heart goes out to all of them. But we know what they also know.

Paul Wallbank is already home.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

So now, let's negotiate

Tomorrow, Commodore Pierre-Yves Firmenich's delegation from Société Nautique de Genève (SNG) will sit down with Commodore Marcus Young's delegation from Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) to discuss next steps for America's Cup. 

This is the biggest America's Cup event since July 2007.

That's when Alinghi successfully defended the cup against Emirates Team New Zealand, SNG accepted Club Náutico Español de Vela (CNEV) as challenger of record for AC33, and the leadership of GGYC and their sailing team BMW Oracle went ballistic. 

Soon after, all legal hell broke loose.

Hopefully, sanity will prevail when club delegates meet tomorrow.

But this is America's Cup. Whether we like it or not, a multitude of issues surrounds the participants -- and all of these issues will be in the room tomorrow, some of them elephantine.

Taking a cruise through the oceans of stimulus:


Ernesto Bertarelli (SUI), head of Alinghi, and Larry Ellison (USA), head of BMW Oracle, will not be attending in person. But their personal perspectives have defined America's Cup for two years and will strongly influence the proceedings tomorrow. Emotionally, they will be in the room.

Curiously, if we set aside an extraordinary assortment of trifling matters, one extraordinary issue separates these competitors. 

Ernesto Bertarelli's leadership has demanded total, complete and absolute control over every aspect of AC33, including the right to banish any competitor for any reason, at any time. One hundred and eighty degrees in the other direction, Larry Ellison has consistently demanded an AC33 that is governed by mutual consent, just like AC32, the most successful America's Cup in history. 

Ultimately, this is the divide that will control the event tomorrow.


To clarify their position, GGYC took an unprecedented step yesterday to publicly announce their objectives for AC33. They will enter the room tomorrow en clair

To no-one's surprise, GGYC re-affirmed their objective for a mutual consent, multi-challenger event involving clubs and teams from around the world. 

Interestingly, GGYC proposed two formats -- (i) An AC event managed by a truly independent America's Cup Management (ACM) with board members of the organizational authority appointed by all participants, as well as the defender -- not a captive ACM board where absolute power and authority, in truth, is vested in Ernesto Bertarelli and SNG. 

Alternatively, GGYC proposed:  (ii) An organizational repeat of AC32 -- with long-time AC sponsor Louis Vuitton possibly returning to take a leadership role in the Challenger Selection Series -- ostensibly Louis Vuitton Cup redux -- with all challengers sharing financial and organizational responsibilities for the series.

This is a very significant development. 

Not only does it consider Louis Vuitton's tentative, potential, and possible -- but welcome -- return to America's Cup (we can't imagine GGYC involving Louis Vuitton without their tacit approval); but it offers SNG and ACM the promise of much-needed financial relief at a time when classic AC sponsors have departed the stage and corporate replacements are thin on the ground.


Sponsors make America's Cup happen. They provide cash. Which may be one reason why a Deed of Gift race is so attractive to a Swiss defender whose major sponsors have also moved on. Certainly, a costly multi-hull vessel must be built and assembled, which takes millions. But the Deed of Gift event is just three races that could actually be completed in two days.

For the defender, financing a three-day event is feasible. Self-financing a one-year or two-year multi-challenger event is a phenomenal challenge.

In today's economic climate, it may be virtually impossible.

Interestingly, sailors always define America's Cup as a battle of boats and teams. Which is true. But the battle doesn't happen without money and sponsors are the people who provide it.

Who will provide the money -- and for which event -- will be the biggest elephant in the room tomorrow.


America's Cup isn't about Deed of Gift races. Existing as a provision to resolve disputes, Deed of Gift (DOG) races are about competitors who cannot agree. 

The real world wants the Real America's Cup to return.

And, frankly, there is more than enough negotiating room for the delegates from SNG and GGYC to forge a way forward to a true multi-challenger event, where absolute fairness -- instead of absolute power -- prevails.

If you want a DOG race in this environment, it's probably because you don't want a classic America's Cup.

You don't want an America's Cup organized by mutual consent. 

You don't want to cede anything to any competitor, at any time, for any reason, not even a world of competitors. 

What you do want -- it would seem -- is total power, total control, and total authority, regardless.

Which might be something, but it's not America's Cup.


GGYC has sent delegates who can complete an agreement for AC33. SNG is sending major players.

We know there is negotiating room for a return to a classic multi-challenger America's Cup. We know that workable financial solutions, including a significant potential sponsorship, have been proposed that could make a classic AC33 a reality. We know that everyone on the planet wants to return to the fabulous atmosphere that prevailed in AC32.

We don't know of a real, valid, genuine, authentic factor -- other than power -- or perceived power -- that could prevent this from happening.

Now, all we need is goodwill.

We hope that's what prevails tomorrow.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tremors, east and west

The America's Cup world is abuzz about boat construction.

Not that this should concern anyone, normally. But at this curious point in time, it's serious.

Actually, it's very serious.

Rabid AC fans, whose fingers are continuously on the pulse, thanks in large part to an extraordinary online network, AC Anarchy, are detecting boat building and assembling energy in amazing places like Anacortes and Villeneuve. 

That's Anacortes, Washington, U.S.A., where Larry Ellison (USA)'s amazing raptor trimaran was put together. And Villeneuve, Lake Geneva, Switzerland, where nothing ever happened, except for tourists visiting the lake, sailors watching Ernesto Bertarelli (SUI)'s latest catamaran, and wealthy people staying in exclusive hotels and villas, along with folks like Bill and Melinda Gates.

Now, in both places, much is happening.

Boat parts are being delivered at midnight in Anacortes. An amazing structure is being erected in a parking lot in Villeneuve that suggests to experienced sailors and boat builders that a vessel curiously like an extremely lengthy catamaran is soon to be erected there.

So what's really under way?

A great deal of confusion, of course. This is the America's Cup 33.

And if it's AC33, you can always take your chances. 

For the record:

(1)  Dogzilla, the phenomenal 90-foot trimaran, supposedly developed by BMWOracle for an America's Cup Deed of Gift (DOG) race, has disappeared.

(2)  Amazing boat parts are being delivered, under the cover of darkness, to a boat building facility in Anacortes, original home of Dogzilla.

(3)  An old rail yard in Villeneuve, now a parking lot, has been converted into a curiously smooth tarmac platform with astonishingly accurate concrete footings under a soon-to-be-completed alloy and mylar canopy. Here, fans say, Ernesto will assemble the real Swiss Myth, a Swiss cat.

(4)  AC sailors, privately, are saying big cats turn and handle faster than big trimarans, and in the simple DOG races ordained by the Deed of Gift, some say, that's a measurable advantage.

Meanwhile, the titans themselves (Ernesto Bertarelli (SUI) and Larry Ellison (USA) and their clubs) are meeting, have met, or soon are about to meet.

What they decide, is what AC33 will be about.

Yet, even before their determinations are announced, you can be assured, much is being expressed in alloy, composites, and glass -- in structures, as well as boats.

AC33, in one form or another, is coming to reality.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Words at work, not working

Words are flying. Words are being captured in huge nets and displayed on websites. Everyone is yearning for meaning. There is no meaning. 

Everyone is also searching for the next missive, the one that flies missile-like into the online world to be tapped by an online reporter and instantly disseminated to the world at large.

Perhaps these are incoming.

All this is the mating dance of America's Cup titans -- America's Cup 33 Challenger of Record, Commodore Marcus Young of Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC), and the AC33 Defender, Commodore Pierre-Yves Firmenich of Société Nautique de Genève (SNG).

The subject at hand:  What on earth -- or at sea -- will happen in AC33?

Specifically, will there be a multi-challenger event, involving teams from around the world?

Or will there be a multi-hull event, involving Alinghi (SUI) and BMWOracle (USA)?

If you think that words don't matter, troll the missives.

GGYC has reaffirmed its commitment to a multi-challenger event, but wishes to "discuss ideas to achieving mutual consent".

SNG, through Vice-Commodore Fred Meyer, who -- consistent with his personal tradition -- uses subtle pyrotechnics, actually verbal sleight of hand, to dissemble the determinations of the New York Court, asserts that "mutual consent" should be discussed.

Now, "mutual consent" is the new "having".

If you are wondering what it actually means, you are not alone.

Both of the parties are dancing very gingerly around this litmus term. 

No-one is saying what they will be discussing when they step into a conference room somewhere, sometime soon, probably in Geneva.

Think about this.

If you are Ernesto, you must sponsor an America's Cup defense. But you have no UBS -- the mega-Swiss bank is now under attack by authorities in the United States. You have no Louis Vuitton -- the long-time AC sponsor and provider of funds for the preliminary events of America's Cup has left the stage, creating its own event for America's Cup teams and boats in New Zealand. 

You also have declining credibility because of the departure of both landmark sponsors, no other sponsors on the horizon, and an imperfect and, frankly, tumultuous relationship with the governments of Valencia and Spain. 

As all of us know -- nobody more than Ernesto Bertarelli's captive management organization ACM -- this isn't exactly the right time to bring newcomers or new sponsors into America's Cup.

So, if you are Ernesto, will you enthusiastically agree to stage a multi-month, multi-year, multi-challenger event?

We don't think so.

Yes, billionaires like Ernesto and Larry have resources. But yes, even billionaires have their limits.

The best we can expect from the Swiss Billionaire, pundits say, is a handy dandy three-day Deed of Gift event, where Ernesto defends against Larry's raptor trimaran by sailing ... well ... the amazing Swiss Myth, a vessel of absolutely pluperfect design and proportions that nobody has ever seen, not even spies.

But is this what Larry wants? Even after building a real, photographed, and competitively viable $20 million trimaran contender?

No, Larry wants a multi-challenger event. Up front, plain and simple. 

He wants GGYC to achieve an agreement with the Swiss defender (SNG) to allow New Zealand, Italy, France, Great Britain, South Africa, China, and every other maritime nation under the sun -- or at least off an arm of the sea -- to participate and contest the opportunity to win America's Cup 33.

Despite the April dancing, that's a pretty solid declaration from the challenger of record for the next America's Cup event.

That is not a declaration that the Swiss defender has made since his puppet yacht club challenger was removed by the Courts of New York.

Nor is it, we believe, a declaration he is ever likely to make.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sturdy voices request (politely) inclusion

Burgees of the Cross of St. George
and Companion Crown and Star

Today, commodores representing yacht clubs who are deeply vested in America's Cup declared themselves for a multi-challenger event and urged Société Nautique de Genève (SNG) of Lake Geneva, current Defender, and Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) of San Francisco, Challenger of Record, to negotiate an agreement to achieve it.

Baron Iliffe of Yattendon, Royal Yacht Squadron (UK), and Messers. David Elwell, Jr. (New York Yacht Club), Mark Fitzhardinge (Royal Perth Yacht Club), Andrew La Dow (San Diego Yacht Club), and Scott Colebrook (Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron) sponsored and co-signed an open letter to request -- and if they had the power, we are sure, to require -- the two clubs to come to a similar conclusion.

The letter, however, neatly parsed the participants.

Authors of the epistle were clubs that either "set the America's Cup in motion" (Royal Yacht Squadron), or "have been a former trustee of the Cup" (New York, Perth, San Diego, and New Zealand).

Notably excluded from this cohort, of course, Société Nautique de Genève, current defender.

You would have to say SNG was deeply vested, and a trustee; after all, they won it twice. Defending it once is enough.

Perhaps the letter should have read -- 'from all trustees except SNG'. 

Yet that would be impolite, and the commodores are gentle people.

But it's interesting that the First Lords of America's Cup felt the need to express themselves. 

At the highest level, of course, all of us endorse their sentiments. 

All of us want a multi-challenger event, especially for sailors and their families; sooner, rather than later. All of us love Valencia; we want to return there, as soon as possible. All of us love a fabulously competitive event, and we always prefer a multitude of flags and burgees -- some of them with elements other than the Cross of St. George (which we respect mightily, and against which, we might add, we hold nothing).

Consistently, if it's America's Cup, we aver, its about the world. Nations, boats, and sailors, from all over. Fans worldwide. Many voices, many faces. It's just better that way.

On another level, we must admit, there is also this astonishing 90-foot raptor trimaran that America's Cup fans have called DoGzilla, which was built by Larry Ellison (USA) of BMWOracle, the racing team sponsored by GGYC. 

This utterly amazing vessel is a fabulous innovation and a new threshold in multi-hull design. We are enthralled by its power and potential. 

Apparently, there is also the Swiss Myth, an equally amazing multihull that exists firmly in the imagination and secrecy of a conspiracy of European designers, builders, fabricators, assemblers, riggers, painters, tent builders, building owners, and trucking firms, which some say is hidden in Villeneuve, in the Alpine Nation. Nobody has ever seen it.

All of us would love to watch these vessels race. Nobody more than us.

For the Cup, we hope it never happens.

Let's watch these vessels race, by all means. But let's ask Rolex to create a new class for the event.

Meanwhile, on yet another level, we wonder about the motivations of the Alta-class of America's Cup Trustees. Yes, of course, they want global racing. Yes, they love America's Cup. And no, there is no doubt about their motivations. They love the Cup.

At the same time, they are laying in place an assertion, a fact, an event in time and place, that could easily be extended, with repetition and emphasis, and endorsed and expanded by attorneys, that could lead to an event that none of us would ever want to see, ever again, ever in our lifetimes.

That's when the Titans of the Universe Clash Without Resolution and Plunge the Cup into Litigation Yet Again.

If that ever happens, we can be assured of one thing.

The Eminent Trustees of America's Cup Exclusive, acting as a majority in the Courts of New York, will seek to restore the Deed of Gift to its originator or to some other mutually agreed defender (to be defined).

Now, we can't imagine that a club like GGYC, that has consistently demanded a protocol that requires fairness, independence and fair competition, would seek to invoke the Wrath of the Pennants of St. George and Companion Crown and Star.

But if a club like SNG is determined to act like the idiot its representatives have consistently presented since July 2007, we can be assured of it.

The Trustees Exclusive will act.