Following over two years of legal disputes regarding the format of the next America's Cup in the New York Supreme Court, Russell Coutts (CEO, BMW ORACLE Racing) and Brad Butterworth (President, Alinghi), spoke together publically for the first time during last week's World Yacht Racing Forum in Monaco.
Both Coutts and Butterworth gave individual presentations on their respective Challenge and Defence before joining several potential challengers to discuss the future, shape and options for the 34th America's Cup.
Presenting first, Coutts told the audience that if the U.S. were to win the Cup, it would propose establishing professional and neutral management for future AC events. “The first step to a healthier future has to be truly independent management of the sporting issues. I believe this as does Larry Ellison, who has made a public pledge to have professional and independent management if BMW ORACLE is successful. The next America's Cup must be guided by the principles of neutrality, fairness and mutual consent between the Defender and challengers”, he said.
Butterworth followed and repeated his organizations claim that the rules and venue for the Cup matches must be set by the defending yacht club when there is no mutual consent, with the challenger setting the date and the boat. He continued to defend Ras Al Kaimah as the venue for the February or May 2010 match pending the decision by the New York Court on Société Nautique de Genève's appeal. “We will be ready to race on 8 February 2010 whether the race is in Valencia or in Ras Al Khaimah”, he said. Coutts replied that his team “will be ready to race on 8 February 2010 in Valencia but would have to look carefully at the transport and logistics issues in case a different venue is chosen.”
Butterworth concluded his presentation with a wish: “I would hope that whoever loses is magnanimous and stands aside to allow the new defender and the challengers to move forward unfettered by lawsuits.”
Talking about the extraordinary performances of the multihulls built for this special edition of the Cup, the Alinghi President outlined his team's vision of the future saying that he would love to have a multi-national, multi-challenge 34th America's Cup. “If we are fortunate enough to win the 33rd match we would like to discuss the type of boat with the challengers.” Butterworth added he did favour multihulls over monohulls, which later triggered an interesting debate between potential challengers.
Both Coutts and Butterworth described their enthusiasm for the giant multi-hulls they are testing, Coutts calling his boat “a triumph of imagination, design and engineering.” He also paid tribute to Alinghi's catamaran. “I think in another 100 years, people might look back and see the BOR 90 and Alinghi 5 in the same way we now look at Reliance and Shamrock – as two of the most extreme Cup yachts of all time and landmarks in the Cup's rich history,” he said.
Nicolo Bastianini (GreenCom), Paul Cayard, Magnus Holmberg (Victory Challenge), Stephane Kandler (All4One), Sotiris Buseas (Greek Challenge) and Marcus Hutchinson (Team Origin) then joined Coutts and Butterworth on stage for a debate about the future of the event after AC 33. A point often repeated was that the class of boat should be something the majority of the challenging teams support.
Talking on behalf of their respective teams, all panellists expressed clear – yet solvable – differences regarding the format, dates and type of boat to use for the next edition of the regatta. On the other hand all panellists agreed that an independent management was necessary, Brad Butterworth reminding his colleagues that its establishment would be difficult due to the complexity of the event.
Led by Paul Cayard, the speakers then unanimously endorsed the idea to rapidly create an official group of challengers and to start working concretely, together, on a Protocol for the next America's Cup. “We have a unique opportunity right now”, Cayard wrote after the Forum. “Neither Alinghi and BMW Oracle knows who will be holding the cards for the 34th America's Cup. So this is a time where each may be more willing to agree to a “fair and independent” event management structure. Either could find themselves on the Challenger side for 34th America's Cup and that party would certainly want a modern and objective event organization.”