Among the eighteen teams that have entered the 33rd America’s Cup (legal warning: this is the event that occurs if Alinghi wins in court), it is expected that at least half won’t find the funding to ultimately participate. However, everything begins with a first step, and with the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series, several teams took a second step by participating. They all remarked how much they learned, how enlightened they have become, and after getting eliminated, how eager they are to continue.
The LVPS was billed as the ‘Friendly Games’, as its intent was to get teams on the water and away from the bickering. Good vibes, Corinthian spirit, bring the event back to spectators… right? Or, is this a naive premise in this era of sponsorship and professional sailing? Can sailing have an All Star Game, where the event is to be fan friendly first, and competitive second? Based on how the Alinghi team is handling their business, the answer appears to be no.
All the entrants seemed to get it except for the most prominent team, the America’s Cup defender, the Swiss Alinghi team. Rewind the tape. The match between Alinghi and the Kiwis was to be a highlight of Round Robin 2, a rematch of the 32nd America’s Cup, but the Swiss sat out - a move they justified based on the oddities of the event rules. Not a popular move. Then when the Swiss made it to the Finals, they protested a section of the event rules they believed to be unfair. Not nice again, but no worries mate, they got their way both times.
As the Alinghi counsel Barry Ostrager stated during the February 10, 2009 hearing at the New York, Court of Appeals, the safeguard of a fair competition in the America’s Cup is the defender’s fiduciary duty. The Challenger of Record, whose job is to negotiate fair event rules with the defender, a heightened responsibility in a multi-challenger event, is in essence, Ostrager inferred, redundant. With how the Alinghi team is handling their business in Auckland, it does raise questions about their ability to fulfill the “defender’s fiduciary duty”. God help the future of the America’s Cup.
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