America's Cup could be held in Queensland

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The Independent Online

America's Cup holder Alinghi is offering to race rival BMW Oracle Racing off Australia next February.

The Swiss syndicate said this morning it was proposing the compromise to end ongoing legal action between the bitterly divided teams and their billionaire owners Ernesto Bertarelli and Larry Ellison.

"This is a venue that should be acceptable to both teams if, as expressed publicly, the true intention of BMW Oracle is to race for the America's Cup on the water," Alinghi said in a statement.

Alinghi said "several locations" on Australia's east coast would be suitable to stage the best-of-three showdown for the 33rd America's Cup between giant multihull boats.

Alinghi spokesman Paco Latorre said the proposal has been communicated to BMW Oracle and its backer, Golden Gate Yacht Club of San Francisco.

It also informed New York State Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich, who is scheduled to hear the two sides' latest arguments tomorrow.

Last week she rejected Alinghi's choice of Ras Al-Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates as host port because it is in the northern hemisphere.

"We have asked her for clarity, if she is forcing Valencia as the venue or keeping the defender's right to choose," Latorre told The Associated Press by telephone.

The Cup's 19th-century rule book, known as the Deed of Gift, says racing cannot take place in the north from Nov. 1 to May 1.

BMW Oracle also objected to Ras Al-Khaimah on security grounds because it is close to Iran.

While Valencia also is in the north, the Spanish port had won approval from both sides in earlier court arguments and seemed the likely destination.

Valencia hosted the 2007 Cup, when Alinghi beat Team New Zealand.

But Alinghi believes weather conditions are not suitable for sailing on the court-designated February dates, and that its new offer was better for both teams.

"If (BMW Oracle) are ready to move to Valencia they should be even more keen to go to the Pacific coast of Australia," Latorre said.

Alinghi says it will specify the Australian race course if BMW Oracle accepts the offer.

With time running out, logistics become a concern. If this were a normal America's Cup, syndicates would fly their sloops to the venue in a giant Russian cargo plane. But nothing has been normal about this America's Cup.

The boats are so big that they'll have to be transported by ship, regardless of the venue. BMW Oracle Racing's 27x27-metre (90ftx90ft) trimaran has been in San Diego since last autumn. Alinghi's equally immense catamaran, Alinghi 5, has been in Ras Al-Khaimah for several weeks, along with the sailing team and some 100 support personnel.

Australia once was an America's Cup power but hasn't competed since the 1999-2000 regatta in Auckland, New Zealand. The Aussie skipper then, James Spithill, is now BMW Oracle Racing's helmsman.

In 1983, the wing-keeled Australia II ended the New York Yacht Club's 132-year winning streak, the longest in sports, by beating Dennis Conner's Liberty in seven races off Newport, Rhode Island.

Four years later, Conner won back the Cup with a four-race sweep of Kookaburra III off Fremantle on Australia's west coast.

Sourced from: The New Zealand Herald/AP