Russell Coutts and Tom Ehman press conference
BMW Oracle, the America's Cup Challenger of Record, organized a press conference this afternoon in their Valencia base. Russell Coutts and Tom Ehman were in charge of informing the Valencian journalists about the latest developments on the Americas' Cup situation.
There wasn't anything entirely new the two men announced, except probably the official statement by Coutts that BOR90, the huge trimaran, is not the yacht that will race Alinghi. Instead, it will be USA (a yacht still under construction) that will face the Swiss yacht in a one-on-one race next February. The American team reinstated their desire to see the 33rd AC be held in Valencia and reconfirmed their intention to hold the next edition here as well, if of course they beat Alinghi.
We left the BMW Oracle with the feeling that the legal shenanigans are far from over in the America's Cup.
If you are really interested, you can also listen to the entire press conference through our audio player. Be patient as the conference took much longer than scheduled due to the simultaneous Spanish translation.
Venue of the 33rd America's Cup
BMW Oracle has written Alinghi that Valencia is a perfect location to hold the 33rd America's Cup. According to BMW Oracle, the options Alinghi has for a suitable venue for the 33rd America's Cup match in February 2010 are either Valencia or a location in the southern hemisphere that complies with the Deed of Gift.
The current stance of BMW Oracle in terms of the venue, either Valencia or southern hemisphere, seems to be in contradiction with earlier statements by both Coutts and Ehman last year. During the presentation of the sponsorship renewal with BMW in Munich last July, Ehman had stated that "in this case, the judge has said the Defender may choose ANY venue in the world, in either hemisphere, irrespective of the dates". On the other hand, in today's press conference both Coutts and Ehman went to lengths to make it clear that the last court orders have made it clear that whatever venue Alinghi chooses it has to be compliant with the Deed of Gift, granting only one exception, Valencia. As a result, an America's Cup match in February can only take place in the southern hemisphere, or exceptionally, in Valencia.
As to Valencia being suitable for a race in February, for Coutts there shouldn't be any doubt to that. According to him, the weather in Valencia is very similar to Auckland in that period of the year where one day it is summer and the next winter. After all, according to Coutts, this is the sport's premium event and as a result sailors should be able to race under all kind of conditions.
According to Tom Ehman, Alinghi "now apparently doesn't want Valencia" and "has another idea of venue in the northern hemisphere". This seems to be in accordance with the letter SNG sent the GGYC (see box at the top of the article), where they clearly state they are negotiating for a "suitable venue" for the 33rd America's Cup. Still, Ernesto Bertarelli, owner of Alinghi, has repeatedly stated the 33rd America's Cup would be held in Valencia, whether it's a conventional event or a one-on-one race in giant multihulls.
Venue of the 34th America's Cup
Regardless of the venue of the 33rd America's Cup match, if BMW Oracle is victorious they will hold the 34th edition of the event in Valencia, as soon as practically possible. This decision is unrelated to what Alinghi plans for the 34th edition. For Russell Coutts, it is in "most people's best interest" to hold it in 2011 but if the rest of challengers agree, it could be moved to 2012. According to Coutts, the goal of having the larger number of competitive teams prevails over any patriotic sentiments. Holding the 34th America's Cup in Valencia is the only way to achieve it.
According to both Ehman and Coutts, this intention isn't contradictory with a statement they had made last December, when they expressed their grievance with Valencia's stance in the legal case. Valencia might have filed an amicus brief in favor of Alinghi but significant steps have been made since then to reconcile any differences. This, obviously, was music to the ears of incredulous local journalists who insisted on asking how it would be possible for an American team to win the Cup and not bring it back to San Fransisco. Well the team might be American but the main sponsor is German and in the America’s Cup, the money has actually driven out the nationalism.
Tom Ehman (left) and Russell Coutts at the BMW Oracle base. Valencia, 21 May 2009. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / Valencia Sailing
USA, BMW Oracle's challenging yacht
USA, the challenging yacht BMW Oracle will race in the 33rd America's Cup match "is being constructed" in the USA and will be launched at a later stage this summer. Construction started in March and the Customs House Registry will be provided as soon as possible.
As it was expected, both Coutts and Ehman eschewed most questions related to the details of the challenging yacht. Throughout the press conference, a TV monitor, placed next to Coutts was constantly showing impressive high-definition footage from BMW Oracle's BOR90 sailing in San Diego, at times with closeups of Coutts or Spithill onboard the huge trimaran. With Coutts always referring to USA in the future tense, inquiring minds wanted to know what we were watching on the screen. Coutts' answer couldn't be any clearer: That's BOR90 you are watching, not USA, our challenge boat.
Italian multihull challenge
BMW Oracle cannot accept the challenge presented by the Italian team Green Comm because it isn't "practical" to have a multi-challenger multihull event in February 2010. For Russell Coutts, this is nothing more than another "delaying tactic" by Alinghi. As to whether Green Comm could be funded by Ernesto Bertarelli, Tom Ehman noted that SIMtone, the first sponsor the Italian announced on Wednesday, was based in Vevey, Switzerland.
BMW Oracle sent a letter yesterday proposing that the mediator be ISAF. It's the best option given the fact the 33rd America's Cup match will be held under ISAF rules and with an ISAF jury. The American team is hopeful this mediation would solve all problems and avoid any further litigation.
Louis Vuitton Regattas
BMW Oracle together with Louis Vuitton are in discussions with different cities in order to organize a number of Louis Vuitton regattas, similar to the one held in Auckland last February. They are in conversations with the city of Valencia in order to hold the first event some time next fall, most probably in October, although there hasn't been any agreement yet. A "couple more" regattas in other venues could be held in 2010.
According to Stephen Barclay, COO of BMW Oracle, teams like these event because they are cheap. They will last approximately 3 weeks each with a cost similar to a TP52 event but substantially more exposure. More importantly, according to Tom Ehman, it would cost Valencia "much less" than what Alinghi was asking for their similar regattas.