Alinghi and BMW Oracle meet in Geneva
As we are writing this post, the meeting between Alinghi and BMW Oracle in Geneva might have already ended, with or without any deal having being reached. It might have signaled the start of a conventional America's Cup in 2011 in Valencia or it just might have been the first meeting to discuss the details of a one-on-one race on giant trimarans some time next year. We will update with any information we have.
Assuming no settlement was found on a conventional regatta what are the options?
As it was widely reported last week, Christine Bélanger and Bruno Troublé were in Valencia for three days and held a series of meetings in view of organizing Louis Vuitton sponsored regattas. Given the very good results that were achieved in Auckland during the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series, it shouldn't come as a surprise the fact the French luxury group would like to also organize a Med Series.
It was initially thought the two French were to meet with Valencia's mayor, Rita Barberá, but both Bélanger and Barberá denied such a meeting was scheduled. According to a statement Bélanger made in the local press, Louis Vuitton was not in exclusive talks with Valencia but instead, the Spanish city formed part of a group of Mediterranean ports that could host such events. She mentioned the countries of Spain, Italy, France and Greece and according to information we have, the cities could be Valencia, Marseille, Naples and Athens. Always according to Bélanger, such events could take place next spring at the earliest, because Louis Vuitton's budget for 2009 sponsorship has already been exhausted.
Still, the letter BMW Oracle sent Alinghi prior to today's meeting in Geneva made it clear that Louis Vuitton's involvement could go much further than a simple circuit, a la AUDI Medcup, and become a full blown Louis Vuitton Cup, if of course the Defender of the America's Cup agrees. Obviously, BMW Oracle wouldn't have made such a proposal without prior negotiations and talks with Louis Vuitton. In any case, there is no doubt the French company wants to be active in top-level sailing inside or outside the America's Cup.
There is no doubt a Louis Vuitton Med Series would be a very cheap way for a lot of potential America's Cup teams to race and the organization might even face the problem of having too many teams interested in participating. It's also considerable cheaper for the host cities. Auckland City Council, Tourism Auckland and AucklandPlus each invested NZL $20,000 to help secure the Louis Vuitton event for Auckland, with Auckland City Council providing significant additional in kind support. The return on investment was tremendous as it injected at least NZL $16.1 million of additional cash into the Auckland economy according to an independent economic impact report.
Our view is that both Alinghi and BMW Oracle in reality want a one-on-one race. The winner of such a match will then have the liberty to negotiate with a Challenger of Record (hopefully a legitimate one) of their choice rather than hold tense talks after almost 2 years of legal fights. Time will tell.