Alinghi team heads for UAE

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The Independent Online

America's Cup holder Ernesto Bertarelli was reported yesterday to be making arrangements to strike camp in the United Arab Emirate of Ras al Khaimah and ship his Alinghi team and his radical Alinghi catamaran, out to what has yet to be declared the new venue for the head-to-head clash with his American challenger Larry Ellison.

The move implies that he will not appeal against a New York court decision this week that the Middle East venue did not meet the regulations for an event which goes back to 1851. The most likely back-up venue remains Valencia, where both men have established team bases, where the mayor, Rita Barbara has said the city would welcome the Cup back "with open arms", and where a heads of agreement is reportedly already signed.The sports director, Cristobal Grau, has refused to confirm that the deal is done but knows that the city would not be required to find much budget for an event which is likely to last less than a week starting on February 8.

It is believed that channels of mediation are also being explored in parallel to the high profile court cases which still need to see resolved matters relating to the scrutineering of the boats, the appointment of an international jury, and a claim by Ellison's team that Bertarelli's club, the Societe Nautique de Geneve, should be disqualified as unfit to be a trustee of the event.

The world governing body of the sport, the Southampton-based International Sailing Federation, has been reluctant to play a mediator role, a panel suggested by the New York Courts has been treated only perfunctorily, but one prominent would-be challenger has been working behind the scenes to try and bring the two sides together.

Oracle skipper Russell Coutts has repeatedly said he wants to talk. The man who replaced him at Alinghi after he was fired by Bertarelli, his old friend and fellow-Kiwi, Brad Butterworth, most recently has said "what's to talk about."

With just three months to run until everything needs to be in place, playing it long is not an option open to either side. The much-modified version of the Oracle trimaran is back in the water at its San Diego base, but a whole new sail rig may be seen over the next fortnight.

Alinghi and the SNG are due to publish the rules for the 2010 event on 6 November, but the all-important jury, which ISAF says will be free to operate in an unfettered manner, may not be named until 15 December. The New York judge, Shirley Kornreich, is due to deliver a written judgment on all outstanding matters early next week.

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