Ernesto Bertarelli and Brad Butterworth talk to the press
Ernesto Bertarelli and Brad Butterowrth, head and skipper of Alinghi respectively, met with the press on Monday morning for an informal breakfast in Auckland. The round table discussion lasted just over an hour but we left the room with very few things we didn't know before getting there.
In my view, journalists blew out of proportion Alinghi's no-show at the match against Emirates Team New Zealand in Round Robin 2 of the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series. It is true there are grounds to condemn it but the rules of the event allow it and permit a team to skip a race against the home team without suffering any consequence. The next Louis Vuitton Series, if and when it is held, should envision this possibility.
According to Butterworth, the rest of teams were informed at 9:30am that Alinghi had no intention to race that day. Dean Barker, Emirates Team NZ helmsman was also informed, as did race organizers later that day. As a result, always according to Butterworth, it was the organizers fault that the public was not informed in advance and dozens of Aucklanders spent the afternoon on their spectator boats waiting for the race.
Butterworth criticized Barker's "Hollywood performance", referring to the kiwi helmsman's public comments about the canceled race, stating that Barker whines quite often.
A lot of time was spent on irrelevant issues such as Bertarelli's incident with the Toblerone chocolate bar. It seems, although I haven't read the story, that Bertarelli tried to enter New Zealand with a chocolate bar, something completely forbidden in that country.
On the other hand, Bertarelli was in contradiction with previous statements his team had made on the 33rd America's Cup or went back and forth during the meeting.
As far as the legal case that has mired the event is concerned, Bertarelli was clear. If Alinghi wins the court case a mutli-challenger conventional event will be held in Valencia in 2010. If, on the contrary, BMW Oracle prevails, there is no other alternative than a Deed-of-Gift match between the two teams, to be raced in multihulls. As Bertarelli clearly stated, the Defender will not use any further legal means to prevent a one-on-one race. As it was expected, no details were given about the yacht that Alinghi will use to defend the America's Cup.
According to Bertarelli, Alinghi will organize 2 regattas in Valencia in 2009, one in July and another in October, regardless of the outcome of the court case, something already knew. Still, in clear contradiction with Alinghi's statement last month, these races will not be compulsory for the 18 challengers that have entered the 33rd America's Cup. It seems that Alinghi has realized it would be impossible for all the teams to be ready in 6 months, let alone find 19 ACC Version 5 yachts. Are there so many of them?
Bertarelli was not crystal clear about the host city of the 33rd America's Cup, if of course it's a conventional one. Although many times he talked about racing in Valencia, he also mentioned the possibility of holding the event in Italy (??) It is clear that Bertarelli and Alinghi require two things from the Valencian and Spanish public authorities. Firstly, the extension of the fiscal regime into 2009 and 2010 (which has not been granted so far) and a deal with the city on the bases. Although it initially appeared last month that the Spanish central government was keen on extending the tax breaks into the current year, it now seems that it will do so only if Alinghi wins the court case.
The next, and last, oral hearing in New York is scheduled to take place in 24 hours. Maybe we'll see some light at the end of the tunnel.