Do yacht clubs really matter in the America's Cup?
According to the Deed of Gift, the basic set of rules that govern the America's Cup, "any organized yacht Club of a foreign country, incorporated, patented, or licensed by the legislature, admiralty or other executive department, having for its annual regatta an ocean water course on the sea, or on an arm of the sea, or one which combines both, shall always be entitled to the right of sailing a match for this Cup". In the 32nd edition of the world's oldest sailing event, a few exceptions were granted. The Spanish challenged through their national sailing federation, the Chinese through the newly-created Qingdao International yacht Club, while finally the Germans opted as well for a previously non-existent club.
Then in June 2007, Alinghi lowered the bar even further and together with their sinister bedfellows, the then President and Vice President of the Spanish Sailing Federation, Gerardo Pombo and Manuel Chirivella, created the Club Nautico Español de Vela (CNEV) in a week in order to have a hip-pocket challenger of record for the 33rd Cup. Although duly registered as a yacht club, the CNEV didn't exist beyond paper. BMW Oracle filed a lawsuit and the rest is history.
Start of the first race of the 2010 Aleph Cup. La Grande Motte, 27 November 2010. Photo copyright Aleph Yacht Club
However, and despite its rhetoric during the long and tedious legal battle of the 33rd America's Cup, the current Defending yacht club, Golden Gate Yacht Club, accepted and validated on Friday, December 10th, a formal challenge by a yacht club that is a barely a month old (officially registered on November 4th) and held the first edition of its annual regatta just two weeks ago, on November 27th.
We are referring to the newly-created Aleph Yacht Club that will be represented by Aleph Team France, the team headed by Bertrand Pacé and Alain Gautier. I think this is another proof that the yacht clubs are mere technicalities and the organizers focus instead on the credentials of the project rather than the underlying club and of course you could hardly get stronger credentials in France than the duo Pacé-Gautier. The yacht club, obviously, meets the criteria set by the Deed of Gift, but just the strict minimum.
The offices of Aleph Yacht Club are in Paris and their regatta was held at the premises of the Yacht Club de La Grande Motte (YCGM) in southern France. This is understandable since the French capital is not anywhere near an "ocean water course on the sea, or on an arm of the sea". It's puzzling though that not one single member of the club took part in their first ever annual regatta, as per the score table!!
Maybe that's why the America's Cup is still at the pinnacle of our sport and if they ditch that antiquated rule they might just become another circuit like the Volvo Ocean Race or the AUDI Medcup.