Valencia Sailing talks to Grant Simmer

Grant Simmer, Alinghi managing director and design team coordinator (left) and Brad Butterworth, Alinghi team skipper and tactician (right) in front of the Dubai International Marine Club.
Thierry Martinez/Alinghi - Copyright

Last Thursday Valencia Sailing visited the Alinghi base and talked to Grant Simmer, managing director and design coordinator of the Defender of the 33rd America's Cup.

Our interest was of course the hearing that had taken place in New York 3 days earlier (January 23rd) and more specifically Alinghi's claim that 'multihulls' and 'keel yachts' are two incompatible types of vessels. The interview doesn't of course take into consideration the documents submitted this week. It's quite long but very interesting.

Valencia Sailing: So far during the legal battle Valencia Sailing has avoided taking any sides and tried to be as objective and neutral as possible. Still, after reading your arguments in the hearing and especially the letter from Jerome Pels (ISAF secretary general), I don’t feel convinced. I even think that Mr Pels writes that the terms 'multihull' and 'keel yacht' are not contradictory. Is that so?

Grant Simmer: You are wrong and I’ll tell you why. The term keel yacht or keel boat describes a type of sailing boat. Other than a lawyer trying to make an argument in New York, everybody that is involved in sailing knows what a keel yacht is and a multihull isn't a keel yacht. It's as simple as that. It's not to say that a multihull can't have a keel attached to it or that there might have been some cruising multihulls with keel attached to them but they are not keel yachts. They are vessels that have a small keel. Take for example the pictures GGYC showed, a bunch of cruising catamarans or trimarans with small keels so that they can be beached or so that they can have a tank underneath the hull. This doesn't make it a keel yacht.

Let me tell you why it's important. In the old days, when somebody challenged for the America's Cup, they had to describe the vessel they were going to challenge in. That's why you have to submit a certificate of the vessel. You tell the Defender, 'we are going to challenge you in a vessel that looks like this, a yacht that looks like this'. In the early days, the New York Yacht Club used to say, 'you have to tell us exactly the beam of the vessel, the waterline length, what type of boat it is, is it a keel yacht or a centerboard?' Then the NY Yacht Club would either design a boat or pick one out of its fleet in order to race the challenger's vessel. That's how it was until we started having classes of boats in the America's Cup. What they have done is that they haven't described the vessel at all.

Valencia Sailing: How detailed must this description be according to the Deed of Gift?

Grant Simmer: The reason for providing the certificate is to describe the vessel, not to disguise the vessel. Even last night, Tom Ehman said on the steps of the court, 'I promise you the boat will have a keel'. What does this say about the boat that is going to challenge us to win the America's Cup? What does it tell us?

Valencia Sailing: It tells you it's going to have a keel. Isn't that enough?

Grant Simmer: Is it a keel yacht, is it a trimaran, a catamaran, what does this vessel actually look like? Does anybody know?

Valencia Sailing: But isn't this the challenger's prerogative? You are asking them to reveal the boat not just describe it.

Grant Simmer: It's a fundamental issue, a fundamental legal argument. We believe the challenger has to describe its boat in order for the Defender to prepare for the match. So, they have to do that when they present their challenge and give you a ten-month warning. That's how it works. If that's not true then the whole argument doesn't matter. Why submit any certificate at all? Why not just say, 'see you in ten months'?

Valencia Sailing: I will come back to my previous question. How detailed must this description be according to the Deed of Gift?

Grant Simmer: If you read our argumentation you'll see that the person that wrote the Deed actually said, the reason for providing a certificate of vessel is so that the Defender understands the nature and details of the vessel the challenger is proposing to race. If you go back historically and look at it, there is a lot of arguing about how they measure the waterline, whether the boat had the correct waterline length they specified. For instance, SNG will need to measure this boat they will challenge with, to see it complies with the certificate. SNG will have to appoint measurers that will actually measure the boat to see whether it agrees with the certificate. This is what the NY Yacht Club used to do.

For the rest of this interesting interview http://www.valenciasailing.blogspot.com/!click_here and scroll down.