No Diplomacy, Just Nonsense!
The British sailors detained last week along with the ex Volvo 60 ocean racing yacht “The Kingdom of Bahrain” (owned by Sail Bahrain) were placed back on the yacht, released by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, and arrived safely today at their destination in Dubai earning the crew a DNS for the Dubai-Muscat race. While it’s not been reported down to the exact meter where the team was intercepted, Iranian authorities appear satisfied with the crews admission the team barely infringed (500 yards) upon the 2 mile territorial limits of a tiny Iranian Island itself quite distant from Iran’s mainland.
British foreign Secretary David Miliband was quoted by Sky News today as saying he was "delighted" (the sailors) were free, and said it showed (European) diplomacy could work, a veiled reference to the six years of diplomacy efforts over Iran’s nuclear program.
I don’t think so. David Miliband would be very displeased to learn that the exceptionally quick release of the British sailors was more likely due to Iran’s neighbor Ras al-Khaimah (RAK) having a complete melt down over the additional damage Iran was causing RAK’s last ditch efforts in a New York court appeal to host the next America’s Cup match next year in the immediately adjacent area of water between Iran and RAK.
Just five weeks ago I had the pleasure of watching live as the organizers of the next America’s cup race, Switzerland’s Société Nautique de Genève (SNG), argued along side RAK representatives that America’s Golden Gate Yacht Club objections to racing off the coast of Iran for security concerns was unfounded. In that October 27th hearing David Boies, representing GGYC, argued first and foremost that the venue was a violation of prior court orders and the documents establishing the cup match, and in addition argued the violation was not just a technicality but a matter of grave importance to GGYC as the venue chosen raised safety concerns for GGYC’s yacht and crew due to the vicinity of Iran. The whole presentation and accompanying map couldn’t be more direct, honest, clear, and undisputable. Amazingly, even though the map showed only a small portion of the gulf, it included that adjacent area where Iran would five weeks later actually arrested the crew of “The Kingdom of Bahrain”.
Barry Ostrager, representing SNG, responded that GGYC’s security concerns with Iran were “flim flam” and the reasons for contesting the venue were in effect to deny basic rights to his client SNG in choosing a race venue. Among the many counter arguments provided was that sailing events had been held nearby in Dubai (95 km / 60 miles away) without incident. Doubling down Joel Rosenthal representing the Emirate of RAK (who was much more civil) assured the court that the venue was very safe, and went on with a speech that touched my heart as he spoke about many other world sporting events that have chosen venues with initially limited infrastructure gave the region an opportunity to shine on the world stage. The judge gave both parties every courtesy to speak their mind, perhaps as touched as I was with that heartfelt presentation, and seemed quite pained to rule that RAK was unacceptable and set the America’s Cup on a course for Valencia instead.
Rolling up to the exact day if not the exact hour of the November 25th seizure of The Kingdom of Bahrain, SNG was back in court appealing the decision with new attorneys. This time around SNG’s argued on appeal they should have the right to move the date of the sailing race from February to May as a remedy for their minor technical violation of previous court orders, allowing them to keep RAK as the venue rather than moving the America’s Cup race to Valencia.
The decision of the appeal court is due in a week or so. Now knowing that the very concerns GGYC had with Iran were coming to pass on another group of sailors, I would say SNG’s appeal is “moot” along with several other issues that worked against them in New York courts. Even if SNG should win the appeal (the judges may not know about this recent news), GGYC would be able to win the next appeal. SNG is also facing an additional court case in regards to breach of fiduciary duty in their selection of RAK and the management of the America’s Cup. No matter the specific fault and technicalities of the British crew crossing an imaginary territorial line into Iranian water, in SNG’s next defense they will be unable to make boisterous claims GGYC’s safety concerns with the venue are unfounded.
I wasn’t able to reach GGYC’s BMW Oracle racing team for comment (Tom Ehman give me a ring would you ?), but hope to report more on the continuing court action as the teams are on a December 4th deadline to deliver to the court a revised Notice of Race (for Valencia), other documents, and perhaps name an ISAF judging panel. Your thoughts?