Gloves Off then On Again as Court Battle Looms

A busy couple of days in Americas Cup land. Just as the waters looked like they would clear up, several handfuls of mud have been thrown back in to keep things interesting.

The Golden Gate Yacht Club and their spokesman Tom Ehman have issued statements after the meeting of challengers last week. There was a slight change of tone, in the statement which included:

“For example, we applaud their decision to have the America’s Cup Race Officials, the Technical Director and Umpires be selected from ISAF officials. This is an excellent step in the right direction.
But a major sticking point remains the arbitration panel. Adding two members simply gives Alinghi a 3-2 advantage rather than their previous 2-1 advantage.
Standard operating procedure for selecting an arbitration panel is to have the Challengers pick two members, the Defender pick two, and those four individuals agree on a fifth member. That would be fair. “

Russell Coutts was also making noises that suggested BMW Oracle were moving closer to the fence. He was reported as saying:

“They were some positive things, we are definitely making progress, we are getting to a point where we agree to most of the points.”

He also said Oracle backed Alinghi’s proposal last month for a 2010 Cup using a new and faster but cheaper class of yacht than the AC90s which competed in the 2007 competition. If it wins the court case, Oracle, as the official “challenger of record”, will try to negotiate a deal with Alinghi to this effect, said Coutts.

Then the “virus” of the process, the court case, was back on the agenda as briefs were filed for the appeal and everything went back to adversarial taunting like boxers yelling at each other at a pre-fight press conference.  As well as Alinghi, the GGYC and Tom Ehman are facing five other teams and the City of Valencia. Amicus briefs were filed on behalf of French Spirit, Argo Challenge, Green Comm Challenge, Team Shosholozo and Ayre Challenge. 

Back in lawyer mode, Tom Lehman said:

“We are in no way fighting to exclude other challengers from the America’s Cup, as today’s SNG court brief falsely alleges. In fact, we were compelled to begin preparations for a default match in a multi-hull solely because of Alinghi’s refusal to negotiate with us toward an AC 32-type protocol. As we have consistently and publicly stated – and made abundantly clear to Ernesto Bertarelli – it has always been our intent to negotiate a conventional multi-challenger regatta with fair and competitive rules.”

Curiously, Mr Lehman might have a hunch that he is losing the PR battle. BYM News has reported that they have been contacted by strategic communications specialists, on behalf of GGYC/BOR. Robinson Lerer & Montgomery’s list of expertise is headed “Crisis management” and its services are described thus: “At RLM, we work with each of our clients to determine effective core messaging, quickly develop a comprehensive strategy to meet the client’s business goals, and integrate a range of communications activities as appropriate.  We develop a unique communications program to meet a client’s specific need – to seize a new opportunity, undertake a new corporate direction, respond to an emerging crisis or competitive challenge, or strengthen the client’s corporate reputation in the long term.”