Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tom Ehman: There are indications Alinghi aren't building all of the yacht's major parts in Switzerland

With less than two weeks left until Alinghi officially unveil the venue of the 33rd America's Cup we talked to Tom Ehman, spokesman of GGYC, the Challenger of Record. Our conversation touched the issues of last Tuesday's court hearing, the venue of the match as well as a revelation that, according to Ehman, there are indications that Alinghi are not building all of their yacht's major parts in Switzerland, something that would be against the requirements of the Deed of Gift. Although he hopes there will not be any further litigation, Ehman states that Alinghi "just can't disregard the Deed of Gift time, after time, after time and expect not to have any consequences."

Valencia Sailing: Can you give us a brief update on last Tuesday's court hearing? In your press statement you say you are "pleased" but one could think that Alinghi scored a victory on the issue of racing rules.

Tom Ehman: The reason we are pleased is that we have certainty on the rules. We haven't seen Justice Kornreich's decision yet and those of us that were in court would expect the assurances their lawyer has given the court, at the court and afterwards, they will waive, they will not try to put in Racing Rules 49 to 54. My great fear was that they could use the rules to their own purposes, cherry pick the rules and use the ones that were good for them and waive the ones that were bad for them. Their lawyer was told pretty firmly by the court, Justice Kornreich said "Mr Ostrager you are going to waive those rules, right?" and he said "Yes, we will." That means that none of these rules will apply, 49 to 54.

As a result, we now have certainty as to what the other rules are, the so-called other rules of sailing, part of the racing rules. So far Alinghi was saying, "Oh, we will tell you what the rules are when we get around to it and we will even change them as we feel like it going forward", something that is totally unfair, totally outside the Deed of Gift. To that extent we were very happy with the court's decision.

We were not happy, assuming she rules in favor of the engine, although we don't know for sure she will, she might come back and have a different theory. If she says that the engine is legal because in her view there are no court rules that can prohibit it, then we see what Mr Bertarelli's vision for the America's Cup is, to take the sailors off the boats and have engines running anything on the boat, including the possibility for computers to run the steering. This is push-button sailing, it's joystick sailing and I don't think that's what the Deed of Gift, what the America's Cup is about or should be about.

Valencia Sailing: Don't you think this is too radical a statement you make?

Tom Ehman: I don't think it's a radical statement, I think it's a radical step to have an engine on an America's Cup boat for the first time in the history of the event, and if that comes to pass, but we'll first wait to see if that happens, if Justice Kornreich decides the racing rules of sailing do not apply, this is what we're going to have. We will at least have certainty with her decision, something way better than what we were going to have because Alinghi kept saying they could put whatever rules they wanted and then amend them as they saw fit going forward. That's why I was happy.

If Alinghi gets the engine, if that's the decision of the court, we will certainly not be happy and it's going to be very sad situation to have engine power running America's Cup sailing boats.

The Racing Rules of Sailing, since way before any of us was involved, going back hundreds of years, have never committed non manual power except in certain classes where the owners got together and allowed non-manual power for kanting keels.

Part of Alinghi 5, Alinghi's new catamaran, under construction. According to BMW Oracle there are indications Alinghi aren't building all of her major parts in Switzerland. Photo copyright Carlo Borlenghi / Alinghi

Valencia Sailing: The VOR70 yachts have such kind of systems. Why couldn't the America's Cup boats have them as well?

Tom Ehman: The VOR70 yachts have such systems because all the teams agreed it was something they should do. Whether that is a good development or not is debatable but certainly we never had powered sailing in the America's Cup. Even in the Volvo Ocean Race you don't have the engines running the winches, you don't have the engines replacing the sailors. That happened already in Formula 1. Those of us living in Europe and following Formula 1 certainly remember what happened when they had the computers running the cars instead of the drivers. It only lasted one season because it was a computer race, not a driver race.

That's what will happen in the America's Cup if that's what the decision of Justice Kornreich says. We will obviously respect her decision. Again, we have certainty about what the rules are and it's a fairer playing field.

Valencia Sailing: Still, in a letter you sent Michael Fary, almost 22 years ago, being the COO of the then Defender you had stated...

Tom Ehman: Yes, I know what the question will be. That was in December of 1987, right after the court hearing that said that the challenge from the Mercury Bay Club was legal. We immediately afterwards went into mutual consent discussions and we all agreed that the normal rules of sailing should apply, which the yacht club had used in all their annual regattas and which SNG used at least up to 2007, and including their 2007 regatta used the standard sailing rules. These are the rules under which we challenged, these are the rules which it was widely believed, not just by us but by everybody, should apply.

In 1988 there was no contention about the rules, there were no discussions other than mutual-consent discussions and that letter was completely appropriate. We never tried to use the rules for our own purposes and that certainly is bore out by there not being a single contention, a single letter, a single anything anywhere. Trying to say that letter is relevant to today's situation is apples and oranges.

The next big issue is the venue of the match and their lawyer wrote the court again after Tuesday's hearing, saying that they would be announcing a northern hemisphere venue. This shows yet again, as far as we Golden Gate Yacht Club is concerned, SNG's reckless disregard for the Deed of Gift. They seem to have no respect for the Deed of Gift whatsoever. The Deed says that the venue must be suitable for yachts of 22 ft draft, free of headland AND in February it's got to be in the southern hemisphere.

For a year and a half, Alinghi argued, both in their court papers AND their PR, that if the race was to be in February it would have to be in the southern hemisphere. Absolutely nothing has changed, not the court order, because it is the same one. The order says that the race can be in Valencia or any other location, obviously meaning any Deed-compliant location. A Deed-compliant location includes the hemisphere and if they want to run it in the northern hemisphere they must get our mutual consent.

Valencia Sailing: In less than 2 weeks they will announce the venue. What will happen if it's in the northern hemisphere and it's NOT Valencia?

Tom Ehman: If it's not Valencia and they do not seek our mutual consent we will not sit idly by and let them show reckless disregard for the Deed and the court's decision. I don't know what we will do but we are certainly thinking about it now because there seems to be another indication they will violate the court's order and choose a northern hemisphere venue.

Valencia Sailing: Have you had any talks with Alinghi on the issue of the venue?

Tom Ehman: Yes we have but only to the extent they say they will choose a northern hemisphere venue.

Valencia Sailing: Have they indicated any possible venue in order to seek your consent?

Tom Ehman: No. As you know, we feel strongly there is absolutely nothing wrong about Valencia, it is a perfect venue year around and we have all trained here. Alinghi trained last January for the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series in Auckland. There is no reason why it can't be Valencia. It has all the infrastructure and as far as we are concerned it is the only location in the northern hemisphere that the match can be held in February, unless we reach a mutual agreement on another location.

Valencia Sailing: Does that mean you are willing to consider other northern venues?

Tom Ehman: Yes, and we have always said that. Russell and I said that in the press conference in our base a few weeks ago. We have always said we are completely in favor of mutual consent on ALL topics. The America's Cup works because of mutual consent. That's the beauty and the magic of the Deed of Gift. It's as simple as sitting down and proposing a venue.

We are not going to give them carte blanche, telling them "Oh, we would like you to choose a venue in Greece, Turkey, Italy, the UAE and 15 other countries". We will certainly not give them carte blanche but if they come to us and propose one northern hemisphere venue that makes sense logistically, from a sailing standpoint, financially and so on we will certainly hold discussions. We are very open to holding such discussions, we always have been and we will always be.

Valencia Sailing: It is obvious Valencia Sailing strongly supports Valencia as a venue for the 33rd America's Cup, more than anyone else and we would be stupid not to do so. But what problem does BMW Oracle have in racing the match in Greece, Italy, Dubai or Abu Dhabi, to name the places you mentioned?

Tom Ehman: There is no problem, provided as I said the venue is suitable, has excellent sailing conditions as well as infrastructure, all the things Valencia has proven to have. If there is another venue Mr Bertarelli thinks is, for some reason, better or as good, and is not just a matter of trying to choose a venue to put money in his pocket or that suits particularly their boat. Remember, in the past, the yacht club hosting the Cup always ran it at the venue where they ran their annual regatta. This is not a requirement of the Deed of Gift but they ran it at the venue where they traditionally ran their races.

Last time, with our support, they put the venue out to bid. We could have actually consented to run it on Lake Geneva but I don't think anybody would have thought running in shallow waters not free of headlands was a good idea. Putting the venue out to bid was a good idea and it wasn't put out to bid for furthering their own competitive or financial interest. It was something that helped everybody, at least on surface. That's the way the venue should be chosen, not to support the competitive aspects of a particular boat or team or for the financial benefit of one of the two parties who happens to be the Trustee and is supposed to be looking out for all the beneficiaries of the Deed.

According to BMW Oracle all sails of Alinghi's yacht must be made in Switzerland. Photo copyright Carlo Borlenghi / Alinghi

Valencia Sailing: Talking about giving their boat an advantage what is your first impression of their catamaran?

Tom Ehman: Well, it's too early for us to tell. Certainly, we have watched the boat sailing, we have been looking at all the nice photos and videos and studying it carefully. It's a little hard to tell because they haven't had many sailing days due to the poor weather on Lake Geneva. Once they get it to Genoa I think we will all have a better idea of what their boat is like. Obviously, it's a big, impressive, fantastic-looking boat and the idea of these two boats going at it in a match next February is very exciting but again, the saddest part of that is that we are going to use engines that replace the sailors. That's fly by wire, joystick sailing and it's completely against the tradition and the history of the Cup and in our view the general sailing community is strongly against it.

The other thing about the boat that baffles the mind is that, by all records, Alinghi are showing again reckless disregard for what we call the constructed-in-country rule, or CIC. The Deed of Gift says that the vessel shall be constructed in the country of the club it represents. The idea that you can build sails or other custom pieces in other countries flies completely in the face of the Deed. The idea that you can take bits and pieces from various places, including Switzerland, and then assemble them in another country again flies completely in the face of the Deed. If this is what Alinghi is attempting to do, and there are many indications from what we hear within the industry that that's not only what they attempt to do but what they are doing, this again will create another furor, another huge dispute because it flies again totally in the face of the Deed.

We probably won't know for sure until they show up on the day of the first race what they have, what yacht they are using because they are not required to tell us, although they will have to get it measured at some point they way we will.

Valencia Sailing: Let's be more specific on that point. Do you claim that Alinghi's yacht has not been entirely constructed in Switzerland?

Tom Ehman: No, I don't claim that. I draw the attention, your attention, to what we call the CIC rule, constructed-in-country. It is a long-standing well-understood rule that can only be modified by mutual consent which started to happen in the late 1970's. There was mutual consent and last time it was the most liberal, loosest interpretation, again by mutual consent, where you basically had to build just the hull in your country.

Still, the rule goes beyond that. The Deed is quite clear that the vessel, and that means the mast, the sails, the entire vessel and any of the custom bits have to be built in the country of the club it represents. There are indications within the marine industry, and as you know it's a small world and there are only so many sailmakers, so many winch makers and so many hydraulic pump manufacturers and these people all talk. We, BMW Oracle, have taken a very straight stance from day one on CIC, constructed-in-country, and will continue to do so and if SNG/Alinghi do not, and there are indications they are not building all of the major parts in Switzerland, then there is going to be another problem.

They just can't disregard the Deed of Gift time, after time, after time and expect not to have any consequences. They found out that when we won 6-0 in the Court of Appeals.

I honestly hope there won't be any further litigation. As you know, we will go back to mediation, I have done business with Lucien Masmejean, I respect him and I hope we cut an agreement as we did in the last Cup. Basically, Lucien and I wrote the 32nd America's Cup protocol after a long negotiation and we can avoid court, we should avoid court this time and the only way to do it is sit down and talk turkey on all these topics just like we did in 1988. There was no contention over the rules back then and all of that blatter by their lawyers last Tuesday was just that. They tried to compare apples and oranges.

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At 2:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great interview Pierre & many thanks :-)

Hopefully in mediation SNG will get some help in reading the Deed so we can get on with racing.

At 5:07 AM, Blogger Edwin said...

Just go sailing. Stupid americans only talking about rules should finnish

At 5:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This article basically says that if they don't like the way things go we will go to court over rules, over the CIC, over the venue and on and on and on. They have a ton of things they don't like, and their lack of willingness to mediate will make this whole thing take even longer.

They say they will talk to reach mutual consent but when the time comes they only go to court. Its amazing they talk about mutual consent but will not actually commit to it, only court action.

If you want the Cup Tom, win the races like everyone else. Right now you are giving no one the chance, not even yourselves.

At 8:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is absolutely phenomenal how much Ehman can be full of shit.
The real thing Ehman is that you are frustrated not to be in control. You have tried all along the 32AC, but you failed. CNEV has been a blessing for you as you had disappeared from the scene before then. Nobody wanted to work with you.

Truly why don't you shut up and remain anywhere in Michigan and stop annoying people who want sport. You don't!

At 10:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, have a break and be nice to your wife...

At 10:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oracle are clearly on the back foot now and they know it... Alinghi will win on the water, they have been following Oracle's Try around day after day since it was launched. Alinghi know exactly what that boat can do and have designed and built something far superior. Oracle know this and will continue to pull the D.O.G to bring SNG down.
Oracle more or less created the senario they are currently in. It's all come back to bight them in the ass. You will not see Oracle cross Alinghi's bow at any point during the 33rd AC!

At 10:59 AM, Anonymous Russ said...

Is this threatening behaviour, Tom ? Face it, you´re on the ropes. Go get a life. Let others go sailing.

At 12:12 PM, Anonymous Shameonyoutom said...

Oracle never intended to win the AC on water ! And they will go to court again and again. Poor guys ...

At 3:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, For the love of god just STOP acting like a little girl. Your making us (Americans) look like cry baby´s.

At 5:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tough talk but how else do you avoid getting taken advantage of? If BOR is abiding by the rules then Alinghi should be made to abide by the rules too. They can't just cheat their way to victory, this has to be done right.

Keep up the good fight, Tom

At 9:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You SNG & Alinghi guys are too funny. Add to that too stupid too as making up the rules to suit your greed to win all happens off the water. Much like CNEV right. So it's hilarious to hear a bunch of cheaters off the water talk about settling it on the water. One only has to look at the court results to see who is right. Oh, let me guess you are the types that can't handle a Protest Committee DSQ'ing you.

At 11:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

TE and BOR are right....They act perfectly.
When you have no chance on the water, what do yo have to do....
going to court.
All facts indicate this "looser" choice.
And with a good communication, they will be able to show extraordinary things, like there is no difference betwen apples and oranges, and show also that they are the best "good boys" in the world...!!!

At 11:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alinghi is greedy of AC wins on the water and not in US court !

Thank you for having choosen to challenge in multi-hull, that was a very clever idea !

The judgment regarding CNEV validity was a joke ! but any way
do you know the deed and what's written about the boat and the rules, and the specific advantages given to the defender it seem's not.

Tom Ehmann is a real double standard whiner, who doesn't have a single chance to win in court any more, and for the match we are all looking forward to see Bor capacities outside of the court !!!

At 2:44 AM, Anonymous WetHog said...

Maybe if BMWO put TE's thoughts about rules and CIC into a cartoon everything would be alright. Or can only Alinghi insult and needle through a cartoon?

At 5:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Catamarans were never seen before 1988 in the Ameica's Cup either Tom - but that was okay because you were the defender of a DoG challenge. Such a short memory!

Furthermore, to say this or that has never been seen before is a nonsense, as in every America's Cup there is something new - it's a development class Tom, remember?

Now then, let's just imagine what will happen in the unfortunate event that Larry, Tom and his cronies become custodians of the Cup - yikes!!

At 10:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:43 - "The judgment regarding CNEV validity was a joke !"

Yes, it was as SNG/Alinghi was caught cheating. If you think that's alright you shouldn't be sailing.

Enough is enough as if SNG are kicked out by the NYSC on the engines so be it. We will find out in 10 days or so when the Judge issues her decision on the rules. Sadly, SNG/Alinghi have bet the bank & it could be their downfall.

At 8:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok bor has a next reason not to sail...LOOSERS

At 6:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

8:00 PM - Having to take a on the land cheater back to court is a good reason not to sail on the water. Pity you don't understand sailing is governed by rules on & off the water. Somewhat similar to the AC but you wouldn't know that being a cheaters poodle. Shame on you for being so greedy to win that you have to cheat.

At 3:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Judging this Article I think Alinghi would be smart not to chose Valenica as their Venue.

My money is that it's gonna be either Dubai or Athens.

At 10:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom - You & Alinghi should be ashamed of yourselves and what you are doing to the sport.

At 4:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good interview. Valencia Sailing does it again!

I'm proud of what BMWO has done.

SNG/Alinghi tried to hijack the Cup with a patsy challenger (CNEV) who was, for all intents and purposes, under the control of SNG/Alinghi. They were attempting to take total control over the Cup challenge process, in a way that was both unprecedented and inconsistent with the basic principles of the Deed.

BMWO did what honorable sailors are supposed to do when a competitor cheats -- file a protest. In this case, the appropriate place to protest SNG/Alinghi's actions was the NY courts, so that's where BMWO filed its protest - a lawsuit.

Now that SNG/Alinghi has lost that fight (that is, they got caught cheating), they have refused to negotiate a multi-challenger event. Worse yet, they have refused to negotiate fair rules for the sailing match with BMWO. Again, BMWO did what was appropriate -- brought the matter before the court for a determination. While BMWO certainly has their own ideas as to what the rules ought to be, their real purpose in going to court this time was simply to force SNG/Alinghi to say what the rules are. (Imagine trying to design and build a boat for a race in 6 months when the other side says, essentially: "We will tell you the rules when we want. And we reserve the right to changes the rules after we tell them to you.") SNG/Alinghi should be ashamed. They are setting a new standard for poor sportsmanship.

To all of the commentators who complain that BMWO is to blame for the court proceedings -- you fail to appreciate that SNG/Alinghi has forced BMWO to go to court. If a port tack boat intentionally fouls a starboard tack boat, and the starboard tacker files a protest, and wins, do you blame the starboard tacker for being litigious? Only a fool would.

At 4:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

EB - You will never be forgiven.. Not for what you are doing to the cup (which is plenty bad), but for making me take Larry's side in all this. Seeing anything the same as him is something I thought I would never do!

BTW EB, if you don't like the cup's traditions or customs, and have no interest in abiding by the deed, why the heck do you want to keep it so bad???

At 11:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Alinghi 5 was designed in line with the Deed of Gift, the 19th century document that governs the basic rules of the event"

BOR should use its energy to build a competitive boot rather keep

At 7:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are indications that bad faith made in USA is the greatest in the world, no doubt about it !!!

Question how can you have a mutual consent with an almost illegal challenger who pretend's to fight your legitimate position on every issue ? boat, venue, rules, hemisphere ? anything goes for obvious fair reason's.

The answer to this question is really simple when americans are challengers their vision shall prevail through(litigated) mutual consent,and of course if they are defenders they are obviously entitled to issue their rules ! for the sake of the(excluded)community

Maybe the one who have betted the bank on Coutts and unlimited expense is going to loose for the third consecutive time. As history show's money is not the biggest part of the equation in the AC, thanks god, & congratulations to SNG & Alinghi for their commitment to fight hard and defend their legitimate honour, in way (manner) that the BOrite's could only dream about !

At 2:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:41 PM - "congratulations to SNG & Alinghi for their commitment to fight hard and defend their legitimate honour"

Pls wake up as the NYSC found & will continue to find that there is very little legitimate about what SNG & Alinghi doing. If you aren't ready or can't follow the rules or law before you hit the water you shouldn't be sailing.

At 1:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Allez Alinghi!!!

At 5:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alinghi forever !!! et un et deux et trois !!!, what a wonderfull team and what a class on the boat & outside, we are proud of you guys !!!

At 8:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After a a two year stretching of "As soon as possible" their lawyers will have 6 hours to defend that. As judge Kornreich clarifies that the court DOES NOT FIND THE PHRASE "AS SOON AS POSSIBLE" TO BE AMBIGUOUS. She cites Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary's definition "after the time that" and defining possible as "practicable" or reasonable promptness. So, the lawyers have six hours on each side to convince that "As soon as possible" means what they want it to mean in the context of the delivery of the CHR in the Deed of Gift.

I think BOR should have them start measuring!


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