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Court Validates BMW Oracle’s Challenge

Yesterday New York Supreme Court Justice Herman Cahn struck down America’s Cup holder Alinghi’s appeal in the protracted battle for who gets to challenge for the Cup and when. The decision validated BMW Oracle Racing’s Challenge for the America’s Cup 33 which means that, in order to not forfeit the match, Alinghi will need to meet BMW Oracle in October. Why October? Although BMW Oracle could force the match for July, as originally called for in their challenge from last July, in November they agreed with Alinghi’s since-replaced legal team to meet in October of 2008. According to an interview with BMW Oracle’s Tom Ehman on The Daily Sail website, "As far as we’re concerned it is in October, we won’t go back now, even though Justice Cahn makes it quite clear that the match could be in July, we stand by our agreement."

Apparently no one has informed Alinghi because, according to a statement released by Société Nautique Genève lead attorney Lucien Masmejan, ". . . we have decided not to appeal the decision and we look forward to getting the fight back on the water and meeting BMW Oracle Racing on the start line of a Deed of Gift Match in July 2009.”

This last statement is confusing, because there seems to be little question that Alinghi is now bound to meet BMW Oracle this October. The decision of where the match will be held poses some interesting possibilities. It looks likely that Valencia will get the nod at this point. According to the Deed of Gift, the choice of venue lies with the defender, which means that, for Alinghi, it’s a wild card with huge implications. Also, the deed doesn’t specify when the venue must be decided, a potential wrench in BMW Oracle’s gears. Some pundits have pointed out that if Alinghi wants to play hardball, they could choose to host the match in a place like Iran or Cuba where Americans are decidedly less welcome. Although that doesn’t seem likely, what Alinghi could do is choose a breezy, open-ocean venue when BMW Oracle shows up with a 90-ft trimaran optimized — and engineered for — Valencia’s relatively benign conditions. Conceivably, a choice of venue exists that would present logistical challenges to BMW Oracle Racing launching or storing a 90-ft x 90-ft trimaran — if in fact that’s what they’re building. While the two teams work this out, stay tuned — there’s undoubtedly some more twists and turns in store.

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