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Alinghi ready to return to court to settle dispute over dates of next America’s Cup

26 March 2008

MADRID, Spain (AP) – Alinghi is prepared to return to court the settle a dispute over the date of the next America’s Cup race.

A meeting between representatives from rival syndicates Alinghi and BMW Oracle Racing in Geneva on Wednesday came no closer to settling the date of the 33rd edition, with Alinghi’s lead counselor Lucien Masmejan stating that the dispute “is likely to go back to court.”

Alinghi will reach out to BMW Oracle Racing owner Larry Ellison in the coming hours in the hopes of striking a deal following the failed talks.

Alinghi wants to race from May 1, 2009, while the Americans wouldn’t budge from their October date, according to Masmejan.

“We still aim to settle it on the water … but if we can’t reach a preferred date we won’t be ready and we have no other option but to go back to court,” Masmejan said. “(Ellison) is forcing us to race in ’08, which is not a race, it’s just a formality to give him the cup.”

Alinghi offered the May 1 date as a compromise for the Deed of Gift race, but Masmejan said the Americans would not budge.

Golden Gate Yacht Club spokesman Tom Ehman said he was surprised that Alinghi was already looking to go back to court, saying it was another delay tactic.

“They didn’t offer us anything. They tried to give us a justification as to why May 1 or why sometime after that is suitable,” Ehman said from Geneva by telephone. “Our clear view is that the sooner we can race, the sooner we can get the cup back on track.”

Alinghi boss Ernesto Bertarelli told the Associated Press last week that he would forgo another court appeal and settle the dispute on the water, but Wednesday’s stalemate has forced a rethink at the two-time defending champion’s camp.

Bertarelli’s team, which gets to choose the venue, wants more time so it can build its boat. BMW Oracle Racing confirmed construction of its own boat is already under way.

“There’s nothing that says they can’t build a boat in time for October,” Ehman said. “For all we know they’ve already designed and built one. Nothing in the rules say they have to build a new boat either. They are very smart sailors with a lot of experience who would be fine.”

BMW Oracle Racing’s challenge, submitted shortly after Alinghi defeated Team New Zealand in the 32nd America’s Cup last July, gave the dimensions for a boat that will be 27m on the waterline and 27m wide. Both teams have already been spotted practicing for the best-of-three match on catamarans off Port America’s Cup in Valencia, Spain.

The America’s Cup has been mired in legal shroud since last July, when GGYC sued SNG weeks after Alinghi retained its title with a 5-2 victory over Team New Zealand.

The Americans were made official challenger to Alinghi after a New York State Supreme Court ruled the Swiss rigged the competition by accepting an invalid Spanish challenger.

“The rules are clear,” Ehman said. “We feel it’s time to get out their and race. I think the other teams would agree with me.”

Earlier this month, the Kiwis sued Alinghi in two New York courts in an attempt to recoup tens of millions of euros (dollars) it says it will lose because the next regatta has been postponed.

Rules state that a race between October and May would have to take place in the northern hemisphere, while the proposed July 2009 date would be sailed in the southern hemisphere.

The Deed of Gift is a document from 1887 that helps govern the America’s Cup.

In 1988, Dennis Conner’s Stars and Stripes beat the Kiwis’ big boat off San Diego in the only other best-of-three matchup.

[Copyright ap 2008]