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America's Cup challenger Oracle on water

The giant trimaran of America's Cup challenger Oracle took to the water off Spain for the first time overnight as confusion continued to surround its planned duel with Swiss defender Alinghi next month.

The US yacht, with its 50-metre fixed-wing sail, sailed in the bay off the Mediterranean port of Valencia, with Australia's James Spithill at the helm.

"Everyone was very excited to get out on the water," Oracle team chief executive Russell Coutts said after the boat was sailed at the site of the 33rd America's Cup for the first time.

"It's been quite a process to get here, get set up and be ready to sail. But that's the point we're at now and it's a big milestone for the team."

Coutts said the boat, which had been called the BOR 90, was now named the USA. It was sporting the name USA emblazoned on its stern when it hit the water.

Oracle and Alinghi are due to face off in a best-of-three event from February 8 in Valencia to decide the 33rd edition of yachting's most prestigious competition.

But the event remains in doubt amid a new legal row between the two bitter rivals.

Oracle last week asked the Supreme Court of the State of New York to rule on whether Alinghi had infringed nationality rules by allegedly using US-made sails for its catamaran.

Alinghi has said the sails are made in Switzerland.

Oracle on Monday had offered to drop the court action if Alinghi signed a deal to resolve the issue that the two had negotiated in Singapore.

Alinghi refused, saying "it isn't possible to negotiate under the threat of a lawsuit."

Oracle has said it is prepared to give Alinghi "several weeks" to change the sails if the New York court rules in its favour on the issue.

If the court does not make a decision before February 8, Oracle said it would take part in the competition under protest and the result could be overturned.

Oracle and Alinghi - owned respectively by billionaires Larry Ellison and Ernesto Bertarelli - have been arguing over the rules of the America's Cup in court since the Swiss syndicate won the last edition in Valencia in 2007.

The New York court ruled in April that the Cup should be settled by a one-on-one multihull duel between the two sides next February instead of the traditional fully-fledged regatta involving several teams.

Sourced from: The New Zealand Herald/AFP