Rumors have been bubbling up from both Auckland and Valencia that all is not well in Casa Alinghi. And with a crucial court date just around the corner and a substandard performance so far in the LVPS, might Team Alinghi be a bit preoccupied?
Sources within the Valencia government told us that Bertarelli was incensed at the government’s refusal to sign an agreement waiving 2009 rent for the team bases, and only one team – Oracle – has paid the November/December rent, which was due in January. We hear that Germany is pretty much moved out, and Mascalzone is ready to leave – will the others follow?
They may need to, as negotiations with the Valencia and Spanish governments have led to threats by Alinghi that they wouldn’t host the mandatory 2009 AC “pre-regattas” in Valencia at all – and with no backup city in the works and very few municipalities with any money to spend at all, that could mean no ’09 regattas, even if the NY Courts throw GGYC out on their asses. Our sources tell us Alinghi’s hardball negotiations were designed to have a host city agreement in place prior to the 10 February court date, allowing Bertarelli’s lawyers to use the agreement and support it represents in their arguments to the panel. Instead, SNG lawyer Barry Ostrager will have to rely on the existing record and SNG’s weak Amici to win against an Oracle argument that’s got the combined weight of the NYYC, SDYC, and Bill Koch behind it.
If the ’09 regattas go away, quite a few teams wouldn’t be too sad – as one team’s office staff told us, “I don’t think we’ll be able to pull together a decent AC5 boat for any 2009 events, 2010 might not be any better – and a lot of teams are in the same boat we are.” His comment brings to mind China Team Director Stuart James’ letter to Alinghi last month, in which James wrote, “We do not believe we are alone in coming to this conclusion and are therefore writing to you today to garner support for a multi-challenger AC33 no sooner than 2011…The current 2010 timeframe suits only those teams with large budgets, funded by team owners rather than sponsors, willing to take design and build risks in spite of the uncertainty. I am sure there are teams like that. I am equally sure there are not many.”
Alinghi said that our information about the Valencia regattas is wrong – or at least, skewed by our sources, and that negotiations are proceeding well, with another meeting scheduled later in February. They explained that all these rumors have been floating around in the Spanish press, where public media battles are frequently carried out as part of private negotiations.
One thing is for certain – the fireworks are just getting started…again.