A commitment to make the America's Cup a challenger-driven event and a tentative opening of the door, if only by an inch or two, to a negotiated settlement of the bitter legal struggle between the American challenger, Larry Ellison's BMW Oracle, and the Swiss defender, Ernesto Bertarelli's Alinghi was made by Russell Coutts, Ellison's skipper and ceo, yesterday.
Speaking ahead of racing in the RC44 Slam regatta at Italy's Lake Garda, Coutts said: "I would like to think there was a chance for discussion to help move things forward as quickly as possible."
Both sides are hoping for a decision from the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court before it goes into summer recess on whether Alinghi can re-open attempts to prevent BMW Oracle being the sole challenger and setting a date for the best-of-three event in giant multihulls sanctioned earlier by Judge Hermann Cahn.
It is unlikely that any talks would be held before the court decision. There was a previous attempt to hold talks between the two sides at the Geneva yacht club through which Bertarelli challenged to win the Cup in 2003 in Auckland and successfully defend it in Valencia last year.
The talks lasted barely half an hour with little sign of willingness to give ground on either side. Coutts has also consistently said that BMW Oracle and the San Francisco-based Golden Gate Yacht Club would like to return to the previous format for the 157-year old event. "We want to get on with a multi-challenger conventional America's Cup," he said.
He was clear that it should be challenger driven, so that before any format was published, talks would be held with the up to a dozen teams waiting in the wings for the private war to be settled.
Coutts said he favoured a return to monohulls, as multihulls could be too expensive for many, but if the challengers wanted multihulls that decision would have to be considered.
Out on the water, Ellison was revelling in a 10 to 14-knot southerly which was near perfect for the match racing section the nine boats are scheduled to complete today before moving into three days of fleet racing.
But he and his seven crew, were not having everything their own way. They ended the day with three wins and three losses as Cameron Appleton and Sebastien Col shared the lead with five wins out of six.