Thu, Dec 31, 2009 - Page 18 News List

Challenger hopes to sort out America’s Cup sails dispute


America’s Cup challenger BMW Oracle Racing said defending champion Alinghi of Switzerland was willing to meet to discuss the US syndicate’s claim that the Swiss are planning to use illegal sails when the bitter rivals face off in February in Valencia, Spain.

As with everything else about this America’s Cup, though, coming to an agreement on the latest contentious issue could be difficult.

BMW Oracle Racing said last week that the Swiss have been using sails built at North Sails in Minden, Nevada, while testing their giant catamaran, Alinghi 5.

The Americans say that’s a violation of the constructed-in-country (CIC) clause in the 19th century Deed of Gift, which requires the yachts to be built in the country of the yacht club they represent. Last week, they told the Swiss yacht club Societe Nautique de Geneve that the CIC clause means the hull, appendages, mast and sails.

In a letter to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC), which backs BMW Oracle Racing, SNG vice commodore Fred Meyer responded that the Deed of Gift “only requires the ‘yacht or vessel’ be constructed in the respective country and does not expressly impose obligations in respect of any of the separate components onboard the yacht or vessel.”

“We remain willing to meet and discuss to resolve any concerns you may have, although until there is certainty as to what ‘yacht or vessel’ SNG will declare for the Match the issue would appear to be theoretical and moot until then,” Meyer said.

Tom Ehman, a spokesman for BMW Oracle Racing and GGYC, disagreed.

“It’s clear as a bell, and everyone in the world knows what CIC means,” Ehman said. “You don’t have a yacht without sails. It’s propelled by sails only. It’s one of the key pieces of gear.”

He said that in the early years of the America’s Cup, challenging yachts had to sail across the ocean to the site of the match.

Ehman said the only time the Deed’s nationality requirements didn’t apply is when different rules were reached by mutual consent for the last America’s Cup.

“We’re not going to stand around and let them willfully break the rules,” Ehman said. “The rules are clear.”

Alinghi skipper Brad Butterworth recently told reporters that the syndicate was building its sails in Villeneuve, Switzerland. That’s where the Swiss built their 90-foot (27.4m) catamaran.

“First they claim their sails are built in Switzerland, now they’re saying they don’t have to be built in Switzerland,” Ehman said. “We don’t know what to expect.”

If the two sides can’t resolve the sails issue, GGYC will take it to the International Jury, Ehman said. The syndicate has also has hinted at post-match litigation if the issue isn’t settled before the racing.

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