Alinghi, Bertarelli State Their Case

Alinghi chooses Valencia to host the 33rd America's Cup, in 2009, and president Ernesto Bertarelli launches a few choice remarks in the direction of Larry Ellison and BMW Oracle Racing.

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Ivo Rovira/alinghi

Alinghi president Ernesto Bertarelli had some strong words today for Larry Ellison and BMW Oracle Racing as he announced that Valencia, Spain, would host the 33rd America's Cup contest in 2009.Bertarelli also revealed a few specific details about the competition for the next Cup. But aside from that the main purpose of the press conference seemed to be lauding the performance of Valencia, and Alinghi, in 2007-mainly by the numerous Spanish politicos in attendance-and launching a few return salvos at Ellison and his legal challenge of the protocol for the 33rd Cup.While Bertarelli again stated that he has no desire to negotiate with Ellison, and emphasized his support for Desafio Español as the challenger of record, he outlined a few tweaks to the format unveiled two days after the end of the 32nd America's Cup.The new rule for the regatta will be released by Oct. 31, two months earlier than the Dec. 31 deadline set at the initial announcement of the protocol. Teams will be able to build two hulls for the next Cup. However, no team will be able to sail more than one boat at any given time, eliminating the two-boat testing that was such a big part of past Cup efforts, especially the successful ones."The reason for this, and I can speak from experience," Bertarelli said, "is the biggest cost for any team is testing, 10 minutes one way, 10 minutes the other way…The fun is racing."As for the racing, America's Cup Management will run two regattas in 2008, in Version 5 America's Cup Class boats. The first will be Valencia in the spring; the second will be somewhere else in Europe in the fall. Given the success of the Acts in Trapani, Italy, in October of 2005, with a reported 495,000 visitors over a two-week period, it would seem that is as likely as location as any. The 33rd America's Cup, and the challenger selection series, will take place from May through July in 2009.The other big announcement of the day was that Team New Zealand has become the fourth team to challenge Alinghi for the Cup, following Desafio Español, Team Shosholoza, and Team Origin. Ellison claimed on Tuesday that he had met with all the challengers from the previous Cup and they all share his view that the protocol unfairly advantages Alinghi. However, each team that tacitly agrees to Alinghi's terms by challenging under the standing protocol certainly seems to weaken Ellison's stance.There were no direct questions to Bertarelli about the fairness of the protocol-why, for example, ACM reserves the right to toss any team out of the competition at any time-or whether the rumors are true that his team has already started tank tests on the new boat, giving them a significant head start on the design.And, he clung to the same logic of Tuesday's press release from the Societe Nautique de Geneve, that Ellison's challenge is designed to circumvent the challenger series and win the America's Cup in a race of 90-foot mulithulls. However, Ellison refuted that logic yesterday, saying in essence that all he wants in a more equitable protocol and that the catamaran challenge is merely the only leverage he has to use.The press conference came to an abrupt end when one of the Spanish officials stood up and walked out. Just before that, however, Bertarelli lobbed a few finals shots in the direction of his former ally-Alinghi and BMW Oracle Racing worked together on the protocol for the 32nd America's Cup."Team Alinghi is not interested in Larry Ellison's multihull race," he said. "Not interested. We're sportsmen, not lawyers. We're sailors, not corporate raiders. What we'd like to do is go sailing and fortunately I've found a few teams to go sailing with. I don't need Larry Ellison's lawsuit in New York."Today is a day of talking about sports, talking about friendship, talking about trust and committmemt to a fantastic event that does not need this kind of, excuse the expression, bullshit."A lot of questions still remain, however, the one thing that seems for sure is that this whole spectacle is going to get a whole lot uglier before we see any sailing, in any kind of boats.