3 Months Out and No Venue. New Low for AC33.

I’m not sure there is any surprise this morning that Justice Kornreich has ruled that Ras Al Khaimah is an invalid venue for the 33rd America’s Cup. A reasonable person reading the Deed of Gift would probably agree that the document does not allow a northern hemisphere venue in February.

Even though SNG and Alinghi believed that a previous court ruling gave them the right to choose ‘any venue’, GGYC argued successfully that the earlier decision implied that the Swiss choose any venue ‘allowed by the deed of gift’. It’s a pretty simple argument and the Judge agreed.

It’s a shame that BMW ORACLE and their team were so unsure of their position with regards to the case that the had to throw mud at a country and its regime to try and score political points in the US. The arguments about potential terrorism were churlish and unbecoming of an international sporting team.

It’s also a shame that Alinghi and SNG took such risk on the venue. While the argument for bringing investment and global recognition to an emerging market through the use of the America’s Cup is a noble one, there has always been a sense that Alinghi were pushing limits of acceptability to all stakeholders, including fans by attempting to stage the race in an almost unknown town with barely any infrastructure.

The powers that be in RAK probably won’t be too disappointed. Once they get over GGYC’s terrorist fearmongering, they will have a pretty marina and a property development that will be worth more than it would otherwise. The previously unknown emirate has also received millions of dollars worth of exposure in the media, which is a pretty good ROI on a couple of white tents.

But what now? Well the race must still be held in February of 2010. The race must also be raced in a venue which is deed compliant. This means that it has to be in the southern hemisphere, Valencia or another northern hemisphere venue ‘with mutual consent’.

Wherever the venue, both teams owe it to the sport to make a decision quickly. One can’t imagine either SNG or GGYC giving refunds to people who had already arranged travel to RAK for February. The selfishness of both sides continues to show through. It obviously doesn’t matter if anybody attends the event, winning is the most important thing.

Even Valencia, with an established infrastructure for sailing will struggle to organise an event which is supposed to be the pinnacle of sailing in 100 days. The teams, who maintain bases there, will be able to scramble the resources required to race, but one senses that even if they agreed the venue today – sailing’s global showcase will be a hastily arranged shambles.

Of course the warring parties issued statements. The Golden Gate Yacht Club opened with the 2nd most used phrase in press releases in 2009 – pleased, (The most often used word in press releases in 2009 is innovate). Tom Ehman’s statement said:

We’re pleased with the court’s decision today that Alinghi’s choice of the venue for the 33rd America’s Cup was not allowed under the Deed of Gift.

We look forward to Justice Kornreich’s decision later this week regarding two additional issues.

We remain motivated to negotiate all remaining issues with Alinghi to ensure a fair, competitive and successful America’s Cup in February 2010. We took a big step towards this goal today.

That’s right – it’s not over. GGYC are still awaiting rulings on adjudicators and measurements. There was no mention of further action re SNG’s fiduciary duty – perhaps it was just a backup in case GGYC had lost the fight on the venue, but the threat of further action remains.

Alinghi’s statemement included:

“This is a disappointing result as we were certain that Justice Cahn’s May 2008 decision allowed the Defender to chose Valencia or ‘any other location’,” said Lucien Masmejan, Société Nautique de Genève (SNG) legal counsel. “Ras Al Khaimah has put enormous time and effort into this 33rd America’s Cup project. We thank them and feel sorry for this unexpected result out of the New York court”.

The sorry saga continues. The New York lawyers are laughing all the way to the bank while the sailing public is jerked around. Only a fool would invest in the America’s Cup in any form at the moment – from promoters of hotel rooms to a fan buying a baseball cap, let alone a sponsor.