America’s Cup squabbles go down to the wire

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The battle for the 33rd America’s Cup is playing out in court again instead of on the race course, where the contest between BMW Oracle Racing’s 90-foot trimaran and Alinghi’s 90-foot catamaran surely would be a lot more exciting.

Two weeks before the Cup’s Feb. 8 start in Valencia, Alinghi and BOR were in New York Supreme Court, arguing now about what the Deed of Gift says about making a Cup boat’s sails in the country of its sponsoring club. BOR says the Swiss team’s sails violate the Deed of Gift because they were built in the United States instead of Switzerland. Alinghi says the deed’s “built-in-country” rule applies only to the boat, not the sails, and anyway its sails were built at home.

“[Alinghi’s] sails were constructed in Switzerland, and this fact is supported by an affidavit from Tom Whidden, president of North Sails, and an official certificate of Swiss origin from the Swiss Chamber of Commerce,” Alinghi says in a Jan. 22 response to BOR’s suit.

While acknowledging in his affidavit that North molded the sections of 3DL sail for Alinghi at its plant in Minden, Nev., Whidden says those sections were pieced together in Switzerland at Alinghi’s loft and finished off there with “traditional sailmaking methods.”

Alinghi also has enlisted renowned Cup historian and author John Rousmaniere in its defense. “The donors of the original Deed of Gift never contemplated limits on foreign sails or foreign sail technology,” Rousmaniere says in an affidavit. “Those donors, in fact, hoisted British sails in first winning the Cup with the schooner America.”

“In adding the CIC [constructed in country] clause to the Deed in 1882, George Schuyler, the last surviving donor, sought to ensure that the Cup remain a genuinely competitive event while preserving the Cup’s international character. He thus struck that balance by limiting the CIC requirement only to a competing vessel’s hull but not its sails.”

BOR doesn’t buy it.

“The Deed of Gift, the trust instrument that governs the America’s Cup and dictates the terms and conditions of the upcoming America’s Cup, clearly states the defending club must race in ‘any yacht or vessel constructed in the country of the club holding the Cup,’ ” BOR says in its Jan. 12 court filing.

“In recent months, [Alinghi’s] excuses have been, literally, all over the map,” BOR elaborates in a Jan. 22 statement. “First, it was, ‘Sails aren’t part of a sailboat.’ Then, ‘It’s not an issue until we race.’ Next, ‘Our sails were built in the USA but assembled in Switzerland.’ Yesterday it was, ‘If we can’t use our 3DL sails we’ll forfeit.’ Now, in their latest court papers, ‘[BOR’s] boat is a French design.’ “

In its filings, Alinghi says that if BOR prevails on the sail issue, Alinghi will claim that BOR’s trimaran is not deed-compliant either because it is a French design and has both foreign-made components and a rigid wing that is not a “sail” as described in BOR’s challenge, which reveals the broad outlines of its boat.

“Making a modern sail is like baking a cake,” BOR concludes. “You gather the ingredients, put it in a mold of a shape and size designated by your design team, and literally cook it. That’s what takes place at the 3DL plant in Minden, Nev., where Alinghi’s sails were constructed. Shipping that cake to Switzerland and adding some candles does not make it ‘Swiss-made.’ “

— Jim Flannery


18 comments on “America’s Cup squabbles go down to the wire

  1. galestorm7

    Very interesting to those of us in the industry. AC news updates via Trade Only are a nice service.
    Both syndicates are spending a lot of $ on US technology, equipment and hardware.
    These projects are doing at least a small part to help keep some people employed.

  2. dsdsailing

    With everything that we are worried about this just does not matter.  No one that I know of, those struggling to make payroll and pay the bills not to mention those hoping to stay employed can identify with some billionaires and a sailboat race – a race that has gotten so out hand from a cost standpoint that the average sailor could care less. 


    I have enjoyed watching the race for 30 nyears and would like to have more coverage. Thanks for the coverage

  4. Donald Rypinski

    As a small multihull boat builder for the past 45 years I am fascinated with the designs and evolution of both the Tri and Cat that will compete (I trust) in this years America’s Cup.  Obviously each team has gone over the top spending money and development time doing radical things that defy traditional boat design by a wide margin.  I look forward to getting the event out of court and onto the race course.

  5. lslkahuna

    Thanks for the coverage.  While these boats are out the reach for just about all of us, the technology being employed is amazing, and will likely trickle down to more reasonably price boats in the future (as has been the case in past Cups).  Add to that the degree to which Alinghi has worked to tilt the rules in their favor while BMW Oracle has fought to protect the fairness and integrity of the Cup, and you have a very interesting event.  Can’t wait until actual racing begins, if it ever does.

  6. newport sailor

    These two Billionaires are killing the oldest sporting event in the world.
    Just go sailing!!

  7. Half Tide Rock

    Following the machinations of the super wealthy who are in the process of developing sailing vessels that now hold the trans Atlantic and circum navigation speed records is worth allocating some resources. It may be morbid, it may be out of our league as we gasp for air. Never the less these appalling legal messes are integrated into the front lines of THE process that has been making rapid quantum changes in technology. None of us who are in the salt water marine industry will be untouched by the technological changes and adaptations. Hate or love the format it is happening and there will be consequences. So thanks for having the resources to watch and give a heads up from time to time. That was just about right, I know now that the whole thing hasn’t imploded and I can return fully satiated to matters of imediate personal concern.

  8. SeaBeau

    As a former North Sails employee, I can say that though the 3DL sails are molded in Nevada, they are ultimately constructed in the finishing loft.  Luff/leech curves, corner patches, etc. are done on the finishing floor.  What comes from Nevada is a big blank triangle.   That said, where should the line be drawn?  The hull, appendages, sails, rigs, rigging, onboard electronics?  Should the sails not include the membranes and aramid fibers?  If BOR wins the argument that the sails must be made (start to finish) in the boat’s country of origin, what’s to say that the mast, running rigging, blocks, electronics shouldn’t be as well?  If so, both teams would clearly be in violation of the DoG.  Shut up and race!

  9. Catbuilder2

    This is important news to those of us in the industry. Thanks for picking it up, the regular magazines have basically ignored this news. As a custom multihull boatbuilder, the technologies that these multihulls create and test, always trickle down to the smaller and more afordable boats for the rest of us.
    I’ll bet the guy who thinks this is so unimportant with the country’s problems and all is still supporting (watching) every stupid pro football game he can. Look at all the money these stupid “athletes” and owners are making in “this game” and it really makes America’s Cup racing just seem like chicken feed. I wish I could see the sanity in it. At least I can always race my sailboat affordably anytime I want to.
    Thanks again, keep the coverage coming.  This is really going to be a “Grand Prix” event. The two fastest AC boats every built will put an entirely new spin and interest in the AC again.

  10. edward mc carthy King Steet Lofter

    Thanks for the coverage, of what I like to call the “BBBC” (big boat bucks cut) and keep it comming.  As to the “TEAMS” I say as a sail loft owner, sail boat owner, and  sailboat racer, “Get it on (the waer) and let the best sailor(s) WIN !!

  11. carey

    Excellent coverage of the latest in the America’s Cup. Trade Only did great appointing Jim Flannery to summarized such a sensitive issue. Regattas are to be solved in the water, not in courts.
    Alinghi exceeded compliance of the Deed of Gift by flying their 90 foot —swiss built— catamaran with a helicopter over the Alps. BOR failed to beat some of the weakest teams during the last America’s Cup. Who wants to be challenge by a looser! After spending billions in technology and presenting the most expensive boat/team, they loose in the first round. What a shame!
    BOR disqualified every other challenger in court to avoid facing them in the water. If I were Ernesto Bertarelli I would bring the Cup to the court and in front of the building, hand it to Larry Ellison. Then, call for a new competition with basic honor standards that Ellison can not comply.

  12. Mark

    It does seem a little silly. Two billionaires with billionaire size egos. However the technology advanced by this competition is an interesting angle in the story with everyday boaters benefiting in the long run. Sometimes it takes a billionaire or a government with huge resources to push the envelope of technology.

  13. DVWK

    You say Tomato I say Tomatoe .
    It is what it is.
    Each use the same vessel and lets see who the better sailors are!!!

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