Cup Runneth Over
As reported Tuesday morning, February 10th marks the final showdown in the current litigation between Ernesto Bertarelli and Larry Ellison – oral argument before the NY Court of Appeals. As that date marches closer, the peripheral characters to this drama are wheeling into action in the court of public opinion. Lawyers will tell you that their clients feel the greatest pressure to settle just before a big decision, and we will soon see the biggest decision in America’s Cup in a very long time. That means the PR war will build to a fever pitch as the litigants and other teams try to influence the likelihood of a negotiated settlement through the court of public opinion.
Rolex Sailor of the Year and Team Origin helmsman Ben Ainslie went on record complaining about the “frustrating situation” just before getting schooled 3-0 by Dean Barker in the finals of the NZ Match Racing Championship this weekend. Alinghi’s Brad Butterworth did an interview with Seahorse calling for BMW to enter the 33rd Cup and be “part of the process.” And today, our old friend Pierre at Valencia Sailing sent out a press release from the “Ayre Challenge,” pleading with GGYC to withdraw its suit and recognize that Alinghi’s mood has changed. According to the release, “After three meetings in Geneva, all participating teams have been able to confirm Alinghi’s predisposition to carry out the necessary modifications to the Protocol, the Event and Competition Regulations, as well as the design of the new box-rule, in a completely democratic way. As a result, great advances have been achieved in a short time.”
These rose-colored glasses paint a hell of a sweet picture, but they also provide nothing but conjecture from heavily invested parties. Despite these “democratic” meetings and the spirit of openness so lauded by these sound bites, the Protocol still hasn’t been formally amended and Alinghi’s mandatory non-disclosure agreement that kept Mescalzone Latino out of Geneva precludes anyone from actually saying what happened behind Bertarelli’s locked doors.
Alinghi has cited “cost-cutting” as a primary goal since the 33rd Protocol saw it’s first storm of criticism. If there was ever a time to gain public support with such a goal, now is it. Forgive us for not trusting Ainslie, Butterworth, or the pleading of some fly-by-night paper challenge: Until we see an Amended Protocol that satisfactorily addresses the problematic parts of the existing protocol and binds SNG and ACM to its terms, we’re just not buying it.