America's Cup: Challengers give Oracle a very frank message at Meeting

The Duchess of Cambridge and Sir Ben Ainslie in front of the America's Cup
© Lloyd Images
Top yachting correspondent, Stuart Alexander, writing in the British newspaper, The Independent, reports on the Competitors Meeting held in Los Angeles, USA over the weekend.

Sail-World was earlier told that representatives of seven teams would be present, at the meeting called by the Challenger of Record, Hamilton Island Yacht Club. The Defender, ostensibly Golden Gate Yacht Club, was only invited to the meeting by a majority vote of the potential Challengers.

The negotiations for the 35th America's Cup venue are being conducted under the auspices of America's Cup Event Authority, a commercial company, which has the sole rights in determining the venue for the next America's Cup under the terms of the Protocol agreed between Hamilton Island and GGYC.

Ultimately the Protocol (Article 3.1b) is very clear that Golden Gate Yacht Club is responsible for selecting the Match (and all Events) Venue and Dates. It remains to be seen if the Club will accept a recommendation from its America's Cup commercial arm, ACEA, to stage the regatta outside its home waters.

ACEA selects the venue for the Qualifiers, if indeed the series attracts more than four entries, but in that case it must only consult with the Challenger of Record, and can clearly ignore that advice.

Labelled the Commercial Cup, the 35th Match for the America's Cup, appears to be driven by a set of commercial parameters which have not been greeted with universal enthusiasm by the Challengers. The choice of venues has been narrowed to just two, one of which is outside USA. The first choice venue of the Challengers, San Francisco, was dropped in the first round of selection, followed by Chicago.

The yet to be appointed Commercial Commissioner does however have the right to make changes to any of the announced Venues if there are subsequent issues.

No real reason was given for the non-selection of San Francisco, although there are a lot of broken fences between the ACEA and the City which neither party seemed inclined to mend. ACEA was given the letter of offer by the City almost six months before it was declined on the basis of insufficient time, and with a further six months to run before the venue had to be announced. The previous agreement, covering the 34th America's Cup, between the City and ACEA ran to 51 pages.

Stuart Alexander reports:

Stuart Alexander, long time America's Cup and international yachting correspondent.
protracted struggle over the organisation of the next America’s Cup is in prospect for British team boss Sir Ben Ainslie after weekend talks for all the current declared challenger teams in Los Angeles. They were joined by representatives of the San Francisco-based Oracle team, an unusual but possibly promising move for the challengers.

The six from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy and Sweden took the opportunity to say that they disapproved of the move to drop San Francisco as the venue, expressed varying degrees of dislike for the two remaining venue choices, San Diego and Bermuda, made clear that they did not want the event split between two venues, one possibly in the southern hemisphere, and wanted to see supervisory provisions, which at the moment bypass the sport’s world governing body, the Southampton-based International Sailing Federation (ISAF), reviewed.

In some of the more frank exchanges, the Oracle representatives, designer Ian Burns and lawyer Sam Hollis, were told that the choice of Bermuda could persuade some of them to pull out. Burns is a naval architecture business partner of Iain Murray, who called the meeting as chief executive of the challenger of record, the Hamilton Island Yacht Club (HIYC).

San Diego received a general thumbs down and even some American followers of the Cup have been scathing about the inner harbour at San Diego, host offshore of the Cup in 1988, 1992 and 1995 but at least it is not only in the U.S. it is in California. Some Americans would be upset if an American defender moved the event to another country.

Conflicting deadlines make life more difficult for everyone. The deadline for entries is 8 August, just three weeks away, but the venue is not likely to be announced before October and the stated deadline for that is the end of this year. Without a venue it is almost impossible to attract finance from sponsors and Ainslie needs up to £50m.

There will also be no more substantial changes to a rules agreement between HIYC and Oracle’s representative club, the Golden Gate Yacht Club, until the appointment of a race director. The 2013 principal race officer, John Craig of SFO, was thought to be in the running, even though he has taken up an appointment with ISAF. But among others mentioned is Phil Lawrence, commodore of the Royal Lymington Yacht Club and in charge of the Extreme Sailing Series, in which Ben Ainslie Racing, the Australians, the Kiwis, and the French compete. The Italians have also taken part.

The stand-off between the Americans and ISAF will take some delicate footwork but ISAF’s current president, the Italian Carlo Croce, is understood to be determined that the world governing body will be supreme in its events, not the Court of Arbitration for Sport. ISAF would normally provide an international jury to rule on disputes both on and off the water as well as providing umpires, who now operate both on the water and ashore use technology to monitor yachts racing at up to 40 knots on a track delineated by electronic touchlines.

For the full story click here