NY Court asks for help to determine America's Cup disputes

At last, some common sense has been applied to the on-going spat between two of the world's richest men over the 33rd America's Cup Match.

Justice Shirley Kornreich of the New York State Supreme Court has recognised that the Court doesn't have the expertise to deal with all the issues being raised, but sees that they must be resolved immediately if the Match is to take place in February.

To settle the remaining rules disputes between the challenger, Golden Gate Yacht Club, and the defender, Societe Nautique de Geneve, on Friday Justice Kornreich ordered the two clubs to form a special panel to advise the court about five rules issues. She ordered that each party is to select an independent expert not affiliated with either club and who has sat on an America's Cup jury in the past. Those two experts are to choose a third expert. The three are to appear before the court on November 4 and testify on:

? The use of moveable water ballast in the measurement of load-water line.
? If it is safe to race off Valencia, Spain, in February 2010, the date and venue now set for the race. By mutual agreement, SNG and GGYC could select a different venue in the Southern Hemisphere.
? If rules can be changed after the Notice of Race is issued. (As it now stands, SNG can change the rules at any time prior to the match.)
? When it is customary to select a jury for an America's Cup match.
? If the contract between the ISAF and SNG imperils the objectivity of the jurors and the rules by which they are bound.

Don't hold your breath, but if the right people are selected this decisive action SHOULD clear most of the contention once and for all and allow the Match to take place.

Statements have been released by both parties, generally welcoming the ruling. Of course, both parties claim they are one trying to get the event resolved on the water and it's the other one who is the bad guy.

The statements read:

Russell Coutts, Skipper & CEO BMW ORACLE Racing
San Diego, CA, October 30, 2009.

Our position that rudders should not be included in the Load Water-Line has been supported by the New York Supreme Court. We welcome this decision. We also totally support the Court's initiative to resolve the remaining issues with input from experts who are previous America's Cup jurors and able to bring their experience to bear on sailing and technical matters…

These issues go right to the heart of what we have advocated all along: fair rules and fair play. This is a significant step towards getting the America's Cup back on track.

Fred Meyer, Société Nautique de Genève vice-commodore:

Société Nautique de Genève continues to evaluate its options ahead of next Wednesday's hearing. We hope that the pending issues will be resolved and that we will have certainty regarding the 33rd America's Cup.

It's disappointing that Justice Kornreich took yet another unprecedented decision that diminishes the rights of the Defender under the Deed of Gift by considering that rudders are not part of the load waterline length measurement. The Deed of Gift Match chosen by Golden Gate Yacht Club is not a mutual consent match and is therefore ruled by the strict provisions of the Deed, which read: ‘These ocean courses […] shall be selected by the Club holding the Cup; and these races shall be sailed subject to its rules and sailing regulations […]'. We expect Justice Kornreich to recognise these rights and respect the Defender's position.

In a separate issue, Russell Coutts has also called for nationality of crew to be addressed for future matches.

The Oracle BMW crew who will race for GGYC is skippered by Coutts, a New Zealander who previously worked for Alinghi, and is made up of men from nine countries, almost half of whom are Kiwis. The helmsman is James Spithill from Sydney. Only two GGYC crewmen are from the U.S., one of whom is the primary sponsor, Larry Ellison.

SNG's crew is skippered by another Kiwi, Brad Butterworth. His helmsman is Ed Baird of the US and a significant proportion of the crew are New Zealanders who were poached by Alinghi after Team New Zealand won the Cup in 2000.

Last week, Coutts told the San Francisco Boating Examiner he believes that at least 50% of the crews in future America's Cup races should be from the country the team is racing for.

– Roger McMillan

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