intimidation alley

intimidation alley

A few bad apples can spoil the whole lot, and the past couple of years have seen some real rotten specimens at the top of our sport. The most egregious offenders have been part of Ernesto Bertarelli’s efforts and while this article won’t go into either the litany of Alinghi misdeeds or their associated club SNG’s recent actions in Valencia, it’s worth considering that the organization in the below story – CNEV – was a conspirator of that Swiss/Italian guy in a conspiracy that might have destroyed the America’s Cup.  They failed spectacularly and are only beginning to see the shame they’ve brought to their own nations and the sport they purport to love, but the practice of litigation and intimidation evidenced by the Spanish pseudo organization CNEV and its parent RFEV in the following story must be brought to light, and those responsible kept out of the sport of sailing – forever.

Jaume Soler is considered to be one of Spain’s most influential and respected sailing journalists. He served as press officer of the Royal Spanish Sailing Federation (RFEV) from 1994 until 2001 and successfully represented his country in the Olympic games of Atlanta and Sydney as well the pre-Olympic competition prior to the Athens games. In addition, throughout the last 20 years Soler has been in charge of media and PR for Spain’s most important regattas and sailing teams. Finally, since 2006 he has been editing Spain’s most popular and respected sailing blog, called, what else, El Blog de Jaume Soler

Soler is a truth teller – an idealist with a love for sailing who believes, as we do, that truth and transparency has been far too lacking at the top levels of sailing.  Over the past 8 years, Jaume has worked to expose hypocrisy in Spain’s sailing politics, systematically denouncing the irregularities committed by the spanish RFEV; It was Soler that first uncovered in his blog the truth behind the paper club. Thanks to his work the world sailing community knew that the CNEV was formed only days before it challenged, that it only had 5 members (all of them directors of the RFEV), that it had no offices, and most importantly that it had never held any regatta, as required by the Deed of Gift. Not only that, Soler unmasked the ridiculous effort by directors Pombo and Chirivella to masquerade a training weekend for kids in optimists as the CNEV’s annual regatta.

Soler is a careful journalist, and all of his claims were supported with solid research and documented fact, but that didn’t stop the rabid dogs that are Pombo and Chirivella and their fantasy scam the CNEV from suing him in July 2008, seeking an incredible 90,000 Euro in damages.  Shockingly, they didn’t claim Soler had defamed them – after all, defamation means "false statements" and Soler’s were all true – no, they sued claiming that Soler should be held responsible for the nasty comments about CNEV and its perpetrators that random blog readers added in the ‘open comments’ section of the Soler blog.  Let that one sink in for a second:  These pieces of human excrement sued a blogger for comments that anonymous blog commenters added to his blog post. Could anyone be more cowardly, vindictive, or unethical?

Of course!  Would it make Pombo and Chirivella look even worse if the legal costs they incurred in their witch hunt against Soler were covered by the Royal Federation?  Sure it would.  How about if you found out that this douchebag duo failed to present any evidence at trial in Madrid in support of their claims?  They actually presented only personal complaints in some kind of effort to get the judge to ‘feel sorry for them’ and help them win a case they never could, and probably never intended to.  Chirivella whined to the judge that his son was bullied at school by his classmates because, in Soler’s blog, an anonymous blog commenter wrote that his father "was gay."  Curiously though, when asked by Soler’s lawyer during the hearing, Chirivella stated that he didn’t consider it to be an insult if someone called him “gay”. Sure, buddy.  Pombo claimed that his 90-year old mother was suffering from the verbal attacks against her son in the blog.  Seriously.  Tell you what, Mrs. Pombo:  Harden the fuck up.  Finally, these mental midgets actually argued that, since Soler is so influential, that his attacks on RFEV caused potential sponsors to flee, and for existing ones to not renew their contracts.  With guys like Pombo and Chirivella running the RFEV, we’d hope sponsors would run for the hills and never look back.

Meanwhile, while Pombo and Chirivella had their personal legal costs covered by the RFEV, Soler came out of pocket for all of it, at last count tens of thousands of Euros worth of legal headache and bullshit. Meanwhile, the trial took place in September 2009 in the Courts of First Instance in Madrid and lasted around 2 hours.  The court issued its decision in December 2009 and found that Jaume Soler was not responsible for any of the imagined harm claimed by RFEV, Pombo and Chirivella. The judge ruled that Soler couldn’t be held responsible for the comments made by his readers, even if they were defamatory, though he never even got to whether the comments were libelous.  Most importantly, the judge found that the RFEV case had no merit whatsoever, and he ordered them to pay all Soler’s legal fees and costs – a big victory for free speech and for Jaume.

Unfortunately for Soler, the RFEV, Pombo and Chirivella continued their Machiavellian plan against him and filed an appeal a few weeks ago, and Soler will have to spend many thousands more to defend an appeal, and of course Pombo and Chirivella will dodge the bills they owe him until the appeal – and the likely one to follow it when they lose this one – is decided. 

Their strategy is clear.  Spend someone else’s money (and rumors are that it is sponsor Iberdola’s cash) to file frivolous claims and clog up your nation’s already congested courts in an effort to cause financial harm to your detractors.  Spain’s mainstream media roundly criticized and ridiculed CNEV and its creators, but Pombo and Chirivella are small timers, and apparently they could only afford to go on the attack against Soler, a freelancer and blogger who commands a lot of respect but doesn’t have the kinds of resources that make fighting easy.

And if you think that RFEV is the only group that thinks filing frivolous defamation suits is a good way to get websites to stop reporting on your stupid acts, you’re wrong.  Hell, Tracy Edwards just tried it with BYMNews, and we hear at least one more miscreant is trying the same strategy with another site…

We’ll keep you posted, and meanwhile, if you see these two men, tell them what you think of them.  And long live the Soler!