America's Cup decision allows movable ballast and powered winches

In what is a kick in the teeth for the mainly American commentators, who basically described the previous New York Supreme Court decision as a phyric vistory for defenders Alinghi, Justice Kornreich has now delivered her previously reserved decision and most of the good cards have fallen the way of the defender.

Specifically, the decision has agreed that Societe Nautique de Genevre (Alinghi) has the right under the Deed of Gift to set the rules for the challenge, and therefore both movable ballast and powered winches are allowed. As Alinghi's catamaran relies on this equipment for its operation, for Justice Kornreich to have ruled otherwise would have been a major setback for the defender.

However, all is not lost for BMW Oracle, because this decision will also allow more computer control, which could be a bonus for the challenger. Effectively, we could see a Formula 1 situation where the crew are basically “drivers” but with the sails and ballast set to optimum by computers rather than humans. This is hardly yacht racing!

In another setback for BMW Oracle, who have been trying to avoid declaring their challenging vessel, a hearing will be held on August 10 where the Golden Gate Yacht Club will effectively be forced to declare whether they intend to re-configure their existing boat or challenge with a totally new one. Once Alinghi know what they are racing, they can change the design and configuration of their boat right up until the first race. However, BMW Oracle are stuck with the boat they have declared. This is a huge advantage for the defenders, as the Kiwis found out in 1988 when they were forced to race against a multihull in a monohull.

The Court has also compelled Alinghi to provide BMW Oracle with details of its agreement with ISAF regarding race juries, etc. However, details provided so far indicate there are no major surprises hidden there.

Justice Kornreich ruled that as both sides had persisted with litigation rather than working out the format between them, that effectively the Deed of Gift's race rules of a “best of three” series with the defender setting the rules would be the default option if no agreement was reached soon.

With a decision on the venue also due on August 6th, GGYC has warned SNG in no uncertain terms that it has only three options: Valencia, or any venue in the Southern hemisphere, or another venue in the Northern Hemisphere mutually agreed by defender and challenger. If the race is held between a catamaran and a trimaran, the choice of the venue will be vital as wind strength and sea state will have a profoundly different effect on a cat and a tri. In simple terms, tris have an advantage in very light or stronger winds while cats have a big advantage in the middle range winds where they can fly a hull but are still stable. Alinghi flies her hull very early, so the “light airs” advantage of the tri will not be great.

There's more nonsense to come before this farce finally hits the water, but meanwhile it continues to provide plenty of conversation topics for the elite racing fraternity.

To see the full ruling, click here http://multimedia.alinghi.com/multimedia/docs/2009/07/090730_Kornreich_Order.pdf

Statement from Fred Meyer, 33rd America's Cup defending yacht club, Société Nautique de Genève Vice-Commodore, following the New York Supreme Court decision published today: “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.”

STATEMENT OF TOM EHMAN, Spokesperson, Golden Gate Yacht Club: San Diego, CA (July 30, 2009) – 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.”

– Roger McMillan

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