Bertarelli and Ellison summit eases America's cup tensions

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The Independent Online

The paralysis which has gripped the America's Cup for over a year seemed to be relaxing over the weekend after a one-to-one summit between the Swiss holder, Ernesto Bertarelli, and the man challenging him in the courts over the structure of the next event, the American Larry Ellison.

The two billionaires met in San Francisco on Saturday for something over an hour in 'a private environment', but there were different interpretations afterwards, Bertarelli's Alinghi syndicate saying it was "positive", Ellison's BMW Oracle that it was "cordial".

In New York, one of Ellison's senior advisers, Tom Ehman, was putting the finishing touches to a lengthy deposition to be lodged today (Monday) with the New York Court of Appeals.

Alinghi has to reply by mid-November, but BMW Oracle can pull the plug at any time of its choosing. As Bertarelli flew back to Europe and St. Tropez to race on the 66-foot Numbers, with an near all-Alinghi team and his winning skipper Brad Butterworth alongside, a short statement from Alinghi also said that both Bertarelli and Ellison shared a passion for the cup, wanted to see it back on the water and to see "an evolution of the event." Neither side could say whether this meant that Ellison's previous demands had been dropped that the format for the cup should return to that in place for the 2007 event in Valencia.

Rather it may refer to the longer term future of the Cup and the way it is run But Alinghi seems determined that its new structure, announced after its 5-2 win over Team New Zealand in 2007, and which has angered many, should remain largely intact.

Further discussions between the two sides would be held "in the immediate future" but these would be between Alinghi and BMW Oracle Racing. It seems clear, however, that, even if the two men are handing the next tranche of negotiations back to their executives, the matter will now be decided by Bertarelli and Ellison personally.

Alinghi has, in any case, also been holding talks at top level with other potential challengers, including Britain's Sir Keith Mills, boss of the Origin team, and Patrizio Bertelli, head of the Prada group, whose Luna Rossa Challenge had apparently packed up its tents, but has always kept a close interest.

Also keenly involved is Ignacio Sanchaez Galan, president of the Desafio Espanol's main backer, Iberdrola. The day to day running is in the hands of Augustin Zulueta, but Galan is the main man.

Now that, until the Court of Appeals ruling, the Club Nautico Espanol de Vela is reinstated as Challenger of Record, the Desafio continues to represent that club and, therefore, would find it politically difficult to go to Auckland early next year for the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series.

Alinghi has been invited to attend by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, as a former holder a trustee of the Cup, but has so far declined as it is being sued in the US federal court by Team New Zealand and its ceo, Grant Dalton. So far Dalton has not been included in the challenger talks.

Louis Vuitton organiser Bruno Trouble also flies into St. Tropez today to sail on the 94-foot Wally, Magic Carpet, with his long-time friend Sir Lindsay Owen Jones, boss of L'Oreal, while on the 65-foot Miss Moneypenny are BMW Oracle and former Luna Rossa helmsman James Spithill, former Prada and Luna Rossa skipper Francesco de Angelis, and current Desafio Espanol skipper Paul Cayard.