America’s Cup challenger BMW Oracle Racing received good news and a surprise admonishment from a New York judge on Tuesday.
Justice Shirley Kornreich of the Supreme Court of the State of New York denied a motion by two-time defending champion Alinghi of Switzerland to disqualify BMW Oracle Racing because the US-based syndicate hasn’t provided a measurement certificate for its 90-foot (27m) trimaran.
Kornreich said BMW Oracle Racing, owned by software tycoon Larry Ellison of Oracle Corp, had to provide Alinghi with the final documentation at least two weeks before Feb. 8, the scheduled start date for the best-of-three showdown off Ras al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates.
Alinghi has been demanding the documentation for more than a year as part of a bitter legal fight between the two sailing teams, both owned by billionaires.
The ruling means BMW Oracle Racing can continue to modify the monster trimaran, including installing an engine to trim the sails and move ballast. Earlier this year, Alinghi, owned by biotech tycoon Ernesto Bertarelli, broke with America’s Cup tradition by launching a 90-foot catamaran with an engine to trim its gigantic sails and move water ballast from one hull to another.
The Americans have argued that a Certificate of Documentation, the modern-day version of a Custom House Registry, can’t be obtained from the coast guard until the trimaran has been proved seaworthy.
BMW Oracle Racing continues to test the craft off San Diego. It has also been modifying the boat, which was launched more than a year ago.
Alinghi wants the documentation to confirm that BMW Oracle Racing has built its boat to the specifications included in its challenge issued in July 2007, shortly after the Swiss successfully defended the America’s Cup by beating Team New Zealand off Valencia, Spain.
“We will do it as soon as possible, as we’ve said all along,” BMW Oracle Racing spokesman Tom Ehman said. “This vindicates us entirely.”
Buried in an eight-page decision that also touched on measurement and rules issues was a surprise admonishment of BMW Oracle Racing’s backing yacht club, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Yacht Club.
Noting the historical advantages afforded the defender by the 19th-century Deed of Gift, Kornreich wrote: “It is not only advances in technology, but the unsportsmanlike behavior of Golden Gate that has resulted in substantially reducing SNG’s advantage as originally contemplated by the Deed. Nonetheless, Golden Gate’s actions are not contrary to law or sanctionable in this limited forum.”
New York attorney Barry Ostrager, who represents Alinghi’s backing yacht club, Societe Nautique de Geneve, said the Swiss are considering asking an international governing body to sanction the Americans.
“When the judge said they’ve engaged in unsportsmanlike behavior, that is a serious indictment of Golden Gate,” Ostrager said. “Basically she’s saying they’ve been jerking us around for a year and a half with this CHR and they’re filing a bunch of frivolous motions that she’s vigorously denied, about whose rules apply and measurement issues and all of that.”
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