Golden Gate sues Alinghi over next America's Cup

Updated: July 20, 2007, 7:46 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- San Francisco's Golden Gate Yacht Club sued two-time America's Cup champion Alinghi on Friday, seeking to replace Spanish syndicate Desafio Espanol as the official challenger for the next regatta and void rules changes.

Golden Gate claimed Club Nautica Espanol de Vela is an "invalid challenger" because it never held a regatta as stipulated in the rules of the "deed of gift," the regulations which govern the America's Cup.

It also claims Alinghi's club, the Societe Nautique de Geneve, used the Spanish one "to engineer a match protocol in which virtually all challenger rights are eliminated and total control of the event and its rules are granted to SNG, altering the very nature of the competition and giving unprecedented and unfair advantages to SNG," a statement from Golden Gate said.

"By refusing to disclose the basic elements of regatta venue, date and boat design rules, there is no opportunity for a fair and equitable competition."

Alinghi wouldn't comment on the lawsuit and calls to Societe Nautique de Geneve's offices went unanswered.

The suit was filed in the State of New York's Supreme Court -- which has jurisdiction to settle all disputes in the competition. It could force Alinghi to accept Golden Gate as the official "challenger of record," thus allowing it to negotiate the format for the 33rd edition.

The court also could rule that Alinghi must race a yacht from Golden Gate under the rules expressed in the deed of gift, which call for a best-of-three series when parties can't mutually agree to terms. In 1988, American yacht Stars and Stripes was ordered to race New Zealand challenge KZ-1 in a best-of-three format. Stars and Stripes won 2-0 with a catamaran design against KZ-1's massive monohull sloop.

Desafio Espanol signed the protocol for the 33rd America's Cup and became the challenger of record moments after Alinghi crossed the finish line one second ahead of Emirates Team New Zealand to hold onto the Cup.

The protocol revealed the first new class of boat since 1992, while leaving the location of the regatta venue, date and boat design rules vague.

Golden Gate, a small, blue-collar club when it filed to be the challenger of record moments after Alinghi won the Cup in 2003, doubted Club Nautica Espanol de Vela's validity as a legitmate yacht club, since it was created as a means to challenge and keep the competition in Valencia.

The Spanish syndicate said it hosted a regatta last Saturday in Santander, Spain, making it eligible to race for the Cup.

"Whatever they want to do is their problem -- we will play their games," team spokesman Miguel Angel Garcia-Juez said. "Desafio Espanol will be the challenger for the next America's Cup."

Garcia-Juez said it was still negotiating the agreement signed with Alinghi.

"It's not a good and it's not a bad deal; we're still negotiating the protocol, but whatever we want to do is our problem," Garcia-Juez said. "We want to improve it and we're in discussions. All this talk, that's their agenda."

The disagreements over the format already have caused warmup regattas in Kiel, Germany, and San Francisco to be canceled, while Louis Vuitton pulled its name from the challengers' series it sponsored since 1983 in disagreement over the commercial direction Alinghi was steering the competition.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press