Russell Coutts talks to Valencia Sailing about the latest America's Cup developments
Russell Coutts, CEO of BMW Oracle, is currently in Slovenia taking part in the Bank Sarasin RC44 Portoroz Cup but is, obviously, keeping a very close eye on the America's Cup between races. We talked to him about the latest developments in the world's oldest sports competition.
Valencia Sailing: Your team has just made public a copy of your yacht’s Certificate of Documentation. Brad Butterworth stated right here in Valencia Sailing that the yacht "doesn't measure" and that you "don't seem to be very sure about that" yourselves. Does it measure?
Russel Coutts: That's just Brad being a little mischievous! Seriously though, this entire measurement question has got to be explained. For too long, Alinghi have avoided the issues. There is a very simple reason for this. They know they are on weak ground when it comes to the facts, so they just try and stick to generalities, like GGYC doesn’t want to race. This is just ridiculous. Look at our team and tell me they are not racers.
Here’s how I see it.
Point 1. Alinghi have been claiming that we were late or somehow wrong with our CHR document. They even tried to disqualify us in Court. Well, Justice Kornreich threw that out. She even said that we had up until two weeks before the match to supply it. Not only that, she said that America’s Cup is a design competition where the challenger can develop its yacht and have revised documentation.
Point 2. Alinghi’s attorney, Barry Ostrager, was asked by Justice Kornreich during that hearing last July if SNG would use the rules to disqualify the challenger. "Oh, that’s not going to happen," he said. It’s in the transcript. You probably posted it on Valencia Sailing, Pierre.
Well, let’s look at what happened next. Within days, Alinghi published a measurement procedure that disqualifies our boat. How can we tell this was deliberate? For a start they use two different methods to measure the length and beam dimension. The only possible reason for this is make the rules to fit their desire – which is to disqualify us or not race. Or both, who knows? Alinghi knows the dimensions our boat to an accuracy of, say, a hand-width. They have been monitoring closely our boat ever since it was launched. Their tactic was to throw out the normal ISAF Equipment Rules of Sailing and other normal procedures and use a method which just ‘happens’ to make life difficult for us. The America’s Cup is meant to be hard. But it’s not meant to be impossible for the challenger to win though.
That was a long answer! But it’s important that sailors see what’s been going on.
Valencia Sailing: Why is it so crucial that rudders are not included in the measurement of the yacht?
Russel Coutts: This is not just an academic argument about LWL, this is just another blatant attempt to disqualify our boat without racing. I urge people to read the recent affidavits we submitted to the court. There’s one from Halsey Herreshoff, grand-son of the legendary Capt. Nat. the builder of eight Cup defenders. Halsey's sailed in quite a few Cups himself and what he doesn’t know about this competition isn’t worth knowing. Alinghi has no answer to Halsey’s testimony. There’s another affidavit from Ken McAlpine, a Cup measurer for three decades, who says that Alinghi are wrong on this. To prove just what nonsense Alinghi’s position is, the only class that Tom Schnackenberg offers as evidence of the normal practice of including rudders in LWL, is a radio-controlled model yacht.
Valencia Sailing: Two days ago GGYC stated that the fight continues for "fair rules". Hasn’t this always been the prerogative of the America's Cup Defender, to set the rules?
Russel Coutts: Simple to answer this one, Pierre. The Deed says that if the defender and the challenger can’t agree – our old friend mutual consent – the defender shall use "its rules". Those rules are the ISAF rules.
People are now beginning to understand how badly ISAF abrogated its responsibilities to be the custodian of sailing's good name when it gave Alinghi a free hand to doctor the ISAF rules to suit its own needs. How ISAF believes it was justified giving away many of its own powers to one competitor in a two boat race mystifies me completely.
Valencia Sailing: What is your position on the venue?
Russel Coutts: As you have seen, we have asked the Court to restore Valencia as the venue for the 33rd Cup. This is something that Alinghi and us do agree on. At least I thought we did. Both sides told Justice Cahn in April that we thought Valencia was the best option.
Once again Alinghi has some explaining to do. Valencia was a huge success. Ernesto Bertarelli said it himself many, many times. But he’s walked away to a little known country and says uncompleted resort development that’s not even near the only town in RAK is right for the America’s Cup.
This is quite apart from the Deed of Gift question which says if you want a location that doesn’t fit the summer months' rules in each hemisphere both sides have to agree. Which we did, in April.
I think anyone who looks at the front page of their newspapers or follows the TV news, knows that tensions are rising in the region. RAK is sandwiched between the hotspots of Iran and Somalia and yet somehow Alinghi thinks it is of so little consequence for us to race our American yacht in one sport’s biggest events that they didn’t even feel a need to speak to us about it. That’s a shocking lack of responsibility.
Valencia Sailing: Do you think that your appeal of September 2nd might delay the date of the match?
Russel Coutts: No we don’t think so. Our lawyers believe things can be settled by the court this year. We want to bring this race on as soon as we can. We have been ready for some time, unlike the other side.
Valencia Sailing: Will your team contest the result of the match in the New York Courts if you lose in RAK?
Russel Coutts: What we will do is continue to fight for a contest where one side, Alinghi, hasn't fixed things so that it can't lose. This is sport and certainly isn’t what the donors of the America’s Cup understood as "friendly competition". To be frank, I really don't know why Ernesto Bertarelli feels he has to do this. Alinghi is a team full of good people. Brad and I appointed most of them. I don't imagine they like some of the stuff that's been going on.
Valencia Sailing: Putting the legal issues aside, are you continuing the development of your challenging yacht? At what stage are you?
Russel Coutts: The boat's in the shed under going further modifications and we will be sailing again later this month. Stay tuned Pierre!