According to the America’s Cup press team, the Owners Press Conference was an invitation to Ernest Bertarelli and Larry Ellison – an opportunity to capture one of three great photo moments of the 33rd America’s Cup. The PR strategy was to create a photograph of Bertarelli and Ellison shaking hands, the second would be the race and the third, one of the men holding the America’s Cup aloft.
Today, Ernesto Bertarelli took the stage alone, at least to begin with, to answer journalists in Valencia. No photo opportunity. No sense that the childishness that has defined the debate between the two sides is going to be put aside for the sake if the Cup or the sport.
When asked whether the race would start as planned on Monday, Ernesto Bertarelli replied that he thought Larry Ellison would be sitting next to him and he wasn’t, so anything could happen.
Bertarelli also said that he hoped that the 33rd America’s Cup would be remembered for the right reasons – the boats, that it was a DOG match, which come along from time to time, but he warned that stopping teams competing may have a long term detrimental effect. Team owners don’t come along very often, he said, and we shouldn’t discourage them.
When asked about how the race committee might interpret a “mutually agreed” rule about wind shifts, Bertarelli invited Alinghi Skipper Brad Butterworth on stage. Suddenly, the owners press conference was no longer the owners press conference, and the stated reason for BMW ORACLE skipper and CEO Russell Coutts not being invited now in question.
For outsiders, the whole thing once again descended into farce. The premier event of this glamorous sport reduced to questions about why the two competitors couldn’t stand on the same stage. When asked to put it in simple terms, Bertarelli said: “I came here to shake Larry Ellison’s hand, but he is not here.”
BMW ORACLE will probably issue a statement, then again they might not. Monday, which is only a day away, can not come soon enough.
Coverage of the 33rd America’s Cup in Valencia is presented by the DARK BLUE BOOK