33rd America’s Cup – Port not right for cup storm

October 2009

ICONS CONSULTING: 33rd America’s Cup – Port not right for cup storm

AN AMERICAN judge has ruled that the Ras al-Khaimah port in United Arab Emirates cannot host the America’s Cup based on the 19th-century document that governs sailing’s marquee regatta.

The decision by Justice Shirley Kornreich of the New York State Supreme Court is a blow to two-time defending champion Alinghi of Switzerland. The Swiss picked the Persian Gulf port for their February showdown against American challenger BMW Oracle Racing.

Kornreich said her decision was based on the stipulation in the 1887 Deed of Gift that the America’s Cup cannot be sailed in the northern hemisphere between Nov. 1 and May 1, not on concerns by the Americans that RAK was unsafe due to its proximity to Iran.

The rare one-on-one showdown in massive multi-hulled boats now appears headed to Valencia, Spain, unless the bitter rivals can agree on another port that complies with the Deed of Gift. In that case, it would have to be in the Southern Hemisphere.

Although Valencia is in the northern hemisphere, neither side objected earlier in the court fight to holding the best-of-three series in the Spanish port. Valencia hosted the 2007 America’s Cup.

Kornreich said she ruled from the bench Tuesday to speed an expected appeal by the Swiss.

The best-of-three series is scheduled to begin February 8.

Alinghi’s choice of RAK has been the most contentious issue in a convoluted, two-year court fight between Silicon Valley maverick Larry Ellison of Oracle Corp and Swiss biotech mogul Ernesto Bertarelli. Ellison owns BMW Oracle Racing and Bertarelli owns Alinghi.

Soon after the Swiss picked RAK in early August, Ellison raised concerns because the sailing would take place about 130km from Iran’s coastline.