Judge Shirley Kornreich ruled yesterday that America’s Cup defender Alinghi can use an engine for trimming sails and other functions. Opponent BMW Oracle, which objected to the engine in the New York State Supreme Court, welcomed the clarification, but said it was a “sad day” for the America’s Cup.
In her ruling, Judge Kornreich said that an engine used to propel the boat would “violate” the Deed of Gift, the longstanding rules governing America’s Cup racing. The Deed “does not, however, contain my restrictions on ballast or design features regarding trimming the sails,” she wrote.
The New York judge said that Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC), the club BMW Oracle represents, did not submit evidence disputing the rules interpretation by Alinghi’s club, Societe Nautique de Geneve (SNG). “Golden Gate’s arguments based on sportsmanship and fairness are equally unavailing, as well as ironic in light of both parties’ displayed lack of adherence to the Deed’s condition that the America’s Cup race be a ‘perpetual Challenge Cup for friendly competition’,” wrote the judge.
Fred Meyer, SNG vice commodore, said the club was “very pleased” with the ruling. “This decision reflects her clear understanding of the Defender’s rights under the Deed of Gift, which makes it the duty of Societe Nautique de Geneve (SNG) to set the rules for the upcoming 33rd America’s Cup,” he said in a statement. “The judge’s order also validates the agreement entered into by SNG with the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), demonstrating that SNG is committed to returning the competition to the water where it belongs.”
Tom Ehman, spokesman for GGYC, said he was “pleased” that the judge gave “clarity” regarding the design rules, but disputed the decision. “For the first time in the Cup’s history, engines will be permitted to trim the sails, and computers can be used to control and steer the yachts,” he said in a statement. “While we are pleased with the design-rule certainty, we are disappointed that the Court has said that SNG can change the other racing rules at any time up to the start of the Match. We do not believe this is what the Deed says, nor what the donors intended, and are currently reviewing our options in this regard.”
The two teams will compete for the America’s Cup in a best-of-3 matchup next February. Both teams have unveiled 90-foot multihulled yachts that are capable of sailing two to two and a half times the speed of the wind. But BMW Oracle cried foul to the New York court last month after Alinghi unveiled its yacht. The 90-ft. trimaran had, according to some descriptions, what looked like a snowmobile engine to assist with lifting sails and moving ballast.
The two teams will return to court August 10 concerning Alinghi’s demand that BMW Oracle Racing turn over a measurement certificate, or Custom House Registry, for its trimaran.
Alinghi has said it will name a venue for the America’s Cup races by next Thursday. It is considering Turkey, Italy, UAE and Valencia, Spain, where the previous Cup was held.