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Michel Hodara quits as head of Alinghi

Swiss America's Cup holder Alinghi is to lose its CEO Michel Hodara, the man in charge of organising not just the up-coming one-on-one defence against Larry Ellison's San Francisco-based BMW Oracle but in charge of the long-term planning of the next multi-challenge America's Cup in the event of Alinghi being successful.

Hodara was central to the planning of the Alinghi defence in Valencia last year alongside the then ceo Michel Bonnefous, who has relinquished that role and in the negotiations with Valencia about a future defence in 2009.

That agreement with both the regional and Spanish national governments has been ripped up, though Oracle has given a written undertaking to mount its first defence in Valencia if it beats Alinghi. No announcement has been made about Oracle's thoughts on timing, though the worry is that it could be as early as 2010, making any challenge very difficult to fund and organise for the up to 12 syndicates that have expressed an interest, including Sir Keith Mills' British challenge.

No replacement has been named for Hodara, who leaves to take up an offer he found too good to turn down. The America's Cup Management company, wholly owned by Bertarelli, continues to operate, though in much reduced form, from the Alinghi base in Valencia's America's Cup harbour, which will be the central feature of the new Formula 1 Grand Prix in August.

The date for the best-of-three series against BMW Oracle, expected to be in giant multihulls, has yet to be set by the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court. Its decision is expected before the end of the month. Alinghi then has to give six months notice of the venue.