The Valencian chess game
It is a pity the only reports from Valencia have absolutely nothing to do with sailing but instead deal with politics, speculation and scenarios about the future. We will try to give today a brief recapitulation of what has taken place so far and what could be the future for the world's oldest sports event.
What brought us here
The protocol was presented by ACM and Alinghi on July 5, in a press conference in Valencia. Nevertheless, at that moment the city was not officially announced as host but instead Michel Bonnefous (then CEO of ACM) stated that "we are discussing extensively the renewal of Valencia as a venue, but we haven’t reached an agreement so far". The only guarantee given was that the America's Cup would stay in Europe.
Obviously, intense negotiations were taking place between the organizers and Valencia in order to reach an agreement as soon as possible. Then on July 11, the Golden Gate Yacht Club files a challenge for the Cup and nine days later, July 20, it files a lawsuit in the New York Supreme Court, claiming the CNEV was not a valid challenger.
Five days later, July 25, ACM officially announces that Valencia will be the host city of the 33rd America's Cup. This is probably the key point in the entire process. According to information that was also verified by Valencia's city hall, there is a clause in the contract between ACM and the city stipulating that in case Alinghi lost its case in the New York court, the contract would become void. As a result, the Defender of the 33rd America's Cup would lose its contractual obligation to host the event in Valencia.
The 33rd America's Cup
This is the reason, according to information widely reported in the press, that ACM refunded (or is about to do) the city and region of Valencia. These two public authorities had already paid the first installment of the host city fee. Erensto Bertarelli's statement in Valencia couldn't be much clearer. The Swiss billionaire told that if Alinghi won the catamaran race then he would try to host the 34th America's Cup in Valencia. It should be taken for granted the 33rd edition will not be raced in Valencia. Why should Bertarelli negotiate with his worst enemy (Russell Coutts) a new protocol for a conventional Cup in Valencia in 2009 or 2010 if he has no obligation?
As a result, the most plausible scenario is for the 33rd America's Cup to take place next summer and will not last more than 5-6 days. Alinghi and BMW Oracle will face each other on catamarans and the Defender has the privilege of choosing the location. It is alleged the Swiss team is combing the northern hemisphere for a truly windy spot given the fact they have already (again reportedly) started construction of a hydrofoiler.
Still, it is interesting to see BMW Oracle's first option of racing the "Deed of Gift" match in the new AC 90 yachts. If the 34th Cup is raced in these new yachts, as everybody now expects, the Americans will have achieved an enormous advantage over all other teams. With the absence of any protocol they can build as many as they want and if they win the 33rd Cup they can shape the 34th protocol to suit them, excluding for example all boats built in 2008 from any boat construction limit.
The 34th America's Cup
The winner of the 2008 race will have a blank check for the organization of the 34th America's Cup. Regardless of who wins, neither Alinghi nor BMW Oracle will have to negotiate a protocol with each other. The winner will most certainly choose a Challenger of Record easier to negotiate with. Without any doubt, the winner will pay extremely close attention to the challenger's credentials in order to avoid a CNEV-like fiasco.
BMW Oracle has made public its wish to have a conventional 34th America's Cup here in Valencia in 2011, regardless of what takes place in the 33rd edition. As a result, if Russell Coutts crosses the finish line ahead of the Swiss in two of the three races next year, we should consider the probabilities of a 34th edition in Valencia as extremely high. Negotiations between the city and the Americans could obviously turn sour for any reason.
It is interesting that Coutts would also like to have Alinghi commit to such an option in order to create a sense of certainty among the prospective challengers. On Monday at 7pm, BMW Oracle will host a meeting in its base in Valencia with all the challengers from the 32nd edition as well as all prospective teams. We will try to give a report of what was discussed in that meeting.
Two open fronts
As if all that was not enough, two other fronts are now open.
First of all, as our colleagues at Sail World report, Emirates Team New Zealand managing director, Grant Dalton, has confirmed the kiwi team has filed a claim against Alinghi. According to the story originally appearing in the UK newspaper Daily Telegraph, Emirates Team New Zealand had sent Alinghi team boss, Ernesto Bertarelli, a claim for compensation of 15 million euros if the 33rd America's Cup were postponed to 2010, and a total claim for 25 million euros if the event was transferred to 2011.
Second, a nightmare scenario surfaced yesterday. According to the Valencian newspaper Las Provincias, the CNEV is seriously considering appealing. This doesn't come as a surprise, since Manuel Chirivella, the CNEV's president, had publicly stated he was studying that option. What comes as a shock is the reason behind this move, at least according to the newspaper. Chirivella wants to use the appeal as an arm to force Alinghi to reconsider its stance regarding Valencia.
CNEV might hardly have any chances in succeeding in its appeal, but just the fact the America's Cup could be stopped during 2 to 3 years is undoubtedly a threat. Neither the 33rd nor the 34th edition of the event could take place in the foreseeable future. It's an irony to see the very same people (Zulueta, Chirivella and Pombo) that were the cause of the current situation and the staunchest Alinghi allies to try to turn themselves against Alinghi, in order to supposedly help the city of Valencia.
Maybe the King of Spain should repeat his now-famous sentence, addressed to Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez three weeks ago: "Why don't you shut up?".
Labels: 33rd America's Cup