America’s Cup dispute resolved

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The Independent Online

In a hard, no-compromise session yesterday that took barely an hour, the America's Cup holder, Ernesto Bertarelli's Alinghi, was told by the American challenger, Larry Ellison's BMW Oracle, in his own clubhouse on the shores of Lake Geneva, to race in October or not at all.

Having been made the challenger of record after a New York Supreme Court hearing, Oracle knew it was in the driving seat and could dictate terms.

"BMW Oracle just said it's going to be October 2008 - period," said Michel Hodara, chief executive of the Cup organisation, after the meeting at Bertarelli's clubhouse on the shores of Lake Geneva. "They did not come with any settlement plan in mind.”

Alinghi had said that it did not have time to build a new boat – expected to be a big multihull instead of the more conventional match racing monhulls – in time to race this year and had proposed a delay until at least 1 May. The plan received short shrift and they were told that they would have to find a boat from somewhere - and it would have to be Swiss-built.

What is not yet known is where, as it is up to the defender to select the venue for a best-of-three series. Both teams have large bases in Valencia, but the America's Cup harbour there will be disrupted by the building programme for the new F1 grand prix to be staged on 23 August, using the port as part of the circuit.

It is possible that Bertarelli will tell the San Francisco-based team to send a courier for the trophy as he has no intention of being bullied into a match in October.

If BMW Oracle should win the Cup they have said they would mount the next defence, with a multiple challenger elimination series beforehand, in Valencia. That would allow the return of challenger series sponsor Louis Vuitton, who walked away unhappy at the end of the Louis Vuitton Cup last year. Coutts is due to meet the LV representative Bruno Trouble in Valencia today.

Coutts will also need a challenger of record to agree a new protocol for what would be America's Cup XXXIV. It is believed that lines of negotiation have been opened with a

new Spanish challenger, Decision, through the Real Club Maritima in Valencia's arch-rival city, Barcelona, supported by the Real Club Nautico de Madrid.