GGYC and SNG Both ‘Very Pleased’ at Judge’s Ruling

Ever wonder how the Americans managed to keep the Cup for so many years? Part of the reason may be the fact, confirmed by Justice Kornreich in a New York court today, that the Deed of Gift gives the Defender of the America’s Cup huge advantages. This is especially so in the absence of  ‘mutual consent’ and in the event of a ‘DOG’ match.

The highlights of today’s judgement are:

  • Alinghi can change the rules including those relating to engines. Therefore the Alinghi 5 is legal.
  • Both parties have to be back in court on the 10th of August to argue the meaning of ‘as soon as possible’ in relation to when GGYC have to provide the Customs House Certificate (CHC) for their challenging boat.

The GGYC Statement from Tom Ehman reads:

We are very pleased that today’s Court decision gives us clarity regarding the design rules that will govern AC33. It is now crystal clear that racing rules 49 through 54 will not apply.

However, without racing rules 49-54, SNG is breaking with the longstanding history and tradition in yacht racing that prohibited the use of non-manual power. For the first time in the Cup’s history, engines will be permitted to trim the sails, and computers can be used to control and steer the yachts. This, we believe, is a sad day for the America’s Cup.

While we are pleased with the design-rule certainty, we are disappointed that the Court has said that SNG can change the other racing rules at any time up to the start of the Match. We do not believe this is what the Deed says, nor what the donors intended, and are currently reviewing our options in this regard.

We are pleased that Justice Kornreich has ordered SNG to provide us the secret agreement SNG entered into with ISAF.

We look forward to the hearing on August 10th to clear the air on the CHR matter. We are confident we can demonstrate to the Court when it “would be practicable for [GGYC] to provide a CHR.”

SNG are even more pleased. Their statement reads:

“We are very pleased with today’s ruling by Justice Kornreich. This decision reflects her clear understanding of the Defender’s rights under the Deed of Gift, which makes it the duty of Société Nautique de Genève (SNG) to set the rules for the upcoming 33rd America’s Cup. The judge’s order also validates the agreement entered into by SNG with the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), demonstrating that SNG is committed to returning the competition to the water where it belongs. We look forward to the 10 August hearing and to receiving the Golden Gate Yacht Club’s Custom House Registry, which will enable Alinghi to properly prepare for its defence.”

It seems a bit late now for GGYC and BMW ORACLE to start complaining about history and tradition. If such things were at the top of the agenda, they could have challenged in a J-Class instead of a 90ft trimaran. They could have signed up to the AC33 concept and things like engines wouldn’t have been in the picture. For a long time it was a tradition to use wood to make boats and canvas to make sails. If you are going to stand on principles, then why not say that carbon fibre is not really in the spirit of things.

These things go back and forth. F1 experimented with traction control and launch control and KERS. At some point someone said, ‘this is all a bit silly’ and they dropped the tech back a few notches to give the driver more control. The fact is, as many people have pointed out, the America’s Cup is not a one-design competition. For better or worse, it is an arms race.

But it’s not over. Not even close. There is still a fight over the venue to be had. There are obscure rules in the Deed of Gift defining where things are manufactured. BMW ORACLE have to wriggle out of the CHC issue and it all has to be done while trying to convince the world that anyone should care.

On the last point, Alinghi seem to be really enjoying using social media to generate a groundswell of support. The Swiss team are opening up to their ‘friends’ – posting photos from mobile phones directly to the web, introducing behind the scenes people and engaging with those who want to go along on the journey. They are experimenting with lots of  Web 2.0 platforms with names like Flickr, Twitter, Qik, Twitpic and Facebook.

You would think that the club based in San-Francisco, the home of Silicon Valley would be the ones leveraging the brave new world of PR technology, but at the moment, the American syndicate’s tone seems more dour and ‘buttoned up’. Perhaps the lawyers have eaten up all the marketing budget.