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Swiss propose meetings to resolve Bertarelli feud

In a bizarre twist to the possible resolution of the feud between America’s Cup holder, Switzerland’s Ernesto Bertarelli, and San Francisco-based challenger Larry Ellison – including a bizarrely timed announcement of the latest move – the Swiss have proposed, as though it was something new, a series of meetings to discuss their dispute.

No date or time has been set, though it is expected to start in the next 10 days, no agenda has been announced, no binding arrangement is included, and no joint approval was in place before the announcement was made.

The invitation from the defending Alinghi team to the BMW Oracle team was to meet with the Australian David Tillett, named by the International Sailing Federation as the chairman of the dispute-resolving international jury.It was delivered three hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve.

The other four members of the jury were informed at the last minute, but not consulted, and any such meeting could not pre-empt any decisions by that jury, which includes two top British rules experts, John Doerr and Bryan Willis.

The jury has yet to be formally empanelled, but Oracle, whatever the outcome of any talks which may or not take place, is expected to ask for official resolution of its rule complaints before the start of racing.

Talks have already taken place in Sydney earlier in December and the new talks may well be staged in the same city. They came to nothing. The principal questions are over the legality of the Swiss catamaran, which must be entirely constructed in Switzerland. Alinghi says this applies only to the main structure of the boat and not its equipment, especially the sails. Oracle says it applies to everything.

There are also proposals to expand the present best of three series, with the first possible race day scheduled for 8 February, to a best of five or seven. The venue would be Valencia, Spain, but the host city is looking increasingly likely to distance itself from any management role, perhaps even any major financial support, and would not take responsibility for television coverage.

Oracle’s 90-foot, wing mast trimaran is due to arrive from San Diego at the end of next week. Alinghi’s catamaran, being shipped from its practice camp in the United Arab Emirate of Ras al Khaimah, would arrive soon after.