A New York court on Thursday backed US team Oracle over Swiss champions Alinghi in the conclusion to a long-running legal battle that could mean the next America’s Cup will be a duel between the two clubs involving multihull yachts.
The New York Court of Appeals overturned a ruling last year that backed Alinghi’s choice of a Spanish club, Club Nautico Espanol de Vela (CNEV), as the official Challenger of Record for the next edition of yachting’s premier event.
Oracle, owned by US billionaire Larry Ellison, will now replace CNEV as the Challenger of Record, giving it the right to help organize the next America’s Cup with defenders Alinghi, owned by Swiss billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli.
Alinghi, represented by the Societe Nautique de Geneve, appeared to finally concede defeat in the legal battle with Oracle, represented by the Golden Gate Yacht Club.
“It has consistently been our view that the America’s Cup should be fought on the water,” it said in a statement.
“Today through the American courts the Golden Gate Yacht Club has won the right to challenge the Societe Nautique de Geneve. We will now discuss the terms for the regatta with them and will prepare our defense of the 33rd America’s Cup,” it said.
Oracle can now demand the next America’s Cup be a best-of-three duel with Alinghi in multihull boats, rather than a traditional regatta involving several teams. But the US team has indicated a willingness to negotiate with Alinghi on a traditional regatta, and the court in its ruling even called on them to talk with the Swiss champions to settle terms.
Alinghi won the last edition of the America’s Cup, held in the Spanish port of Valencia in 2007, beating Team New Zealand in the final. The 33rd America’s Cup was then scheduled to be held in Valencia this year. But organizers postponed the event after Oracle filed a court case in which it objected to Alinghi’s choice of CNEV as its Challenger of Record.
• Brother Elephants 7,
Uni-President Lions 3
• Sinon Bulls 6, La New Bears 1
• Uni-President Lions v Brother Elephants
• La New Bears v Sinon Bulls
The court initially backed Oracle in the dispute before the Swiss team won on appeal.
The New York court on Thursday based its final decision on the original Deed of Gift, the 19th-century document that governs the oldest international trophy in sport.
It said that the Spanish club was not eligible to be a true challenger because it did not meet all requirements.
Oracle’s successful argument noted a provision that says a club’s annual regatta must be staged at sea. The Spanish club had not staged one and as a result was ousted as Challenger of Record.
Where an earlier court found language on annual regattas unclear, “we disagree and find the phrase unambiguous,” the court ruled, saying at least one qualifying regatta had to have been staged by a challenger.
“Thus, [Alinghi] is wrong in its claim the regatta requirement can be satisfied by race time rather than at the time of challenge,” the court ruled. “Since CNEV has failed to show that at the time it submitted its notice of challenge it was a ‘club fulfilling all the conditions required’ by Deed of Gift, it does not qualify as the Challenger of Record for the 33rd America’s Cup.”