Race 2 breach of America's Cup rules?

Updated: March 5, 2010, 5:46 PM ET
Associated Press

SAN DIEGO -- One of the bitterest chapters in the 159-year history of the America's Cup didn't quite end when the speedy space-age trimaran owned by American software tycoon Larry Ellison routed Alinghi of Switzerland last month in Valencia, Spain.

Fred Meyer, the vice commodore of Alinghi's backing yacht club, Societe Nautique de Geneve, said in an open letter to the club's members that the decisive Race 2 was run in improper conditions.

"From a rules point of view, it is not even clear whether there was truly a race or not on that day," Meyer concluded. The letter was sent last week and began circulating outside the club this week.

The last line raised some eyebrows in a sport that had been mired in court: Do the Swiss plan to take some kind of legal action over the race result?

"No," Alinghi spokesman Paco Latorre told The Associated Press on Friday. "But SNG and especially the people who were on the committee boat are a little bit fed up about comments not truthful. I don't think SNG wants to take any further action. It's done, it's over. The reputation of those three guys has been hit a little bit. Everything has been said but nothing nice has been said about them."

As it was, Alinghi and Ellison's BMW Oracle Racing fought over rules, dates and the venue for 2½ years in the New York state court system, right up until two weeks before Race 1.

The day after the Americans completed the two-race sweep, principal race officer Harold Bennett of New Zealand said there was "a bit of a mutiny" among the Swiss members of the race committee, who refused to help with the starting sequence.

Race 2 had been postponed six hours while the committee waited for conditions on the Mediterranean to settle. Late in the afternoon, Bennett indicated he was aiming for a start five minutes before the cutoff time.

The Swiss, badly beaten in Race 1, told Bennett the waves of approximately three feet were too high. When Bennett ordered the prestart sequence to begin, the Swiss members of the race committee -- Meyer was among them -- refused to lower the postponement flags and went below deck. Bennett told Tom Ehman, a neutral observer from BMW Oracle Racing, to lower the flags and had the boat driver, who is an international umpire, help with other signals.

Alinghi's massive catamaran was penalized for being in the starting box early, which Meyer blamed on spectator boats.

BMW Oracle Racing provided a screen-shot from the television broadcast in which the only boat near the starting line with 4:14 to go before the start was an umpire's boat several hundred meters away from Alinghi.

Meyer also complained that alarms sounded continuously on both boats due to the extreme loads they were under as they sailed upwind on the first leg.

"Fortunately no accidents occurred that day and neither of the boats was damaged," Meyer wrote. "The three SNG Race Committee members however maintain that it was unreasonable, unnecessary and improper to launch the race at that moment."

Bennett didn't have much sympathy.

"They were taking a little bit of strain," he told a group of reporters the day after the race. "But crikey, if the boats are that flimsy, I guess it's a problem, isn't it?"

Ehman declined to comment on Meyer's letter.

Interestingly, SNG's Web site still carries a message from Alinghi dated three days after Race 2, headlined, "GAME OVER!"

The message reads in part: "The 33rd America's Cup was full of twists and turns, but the competition was fair."

San Francisco's Golden Gate Yacht Club, which backs BMW Oracle Racing and is the new home of the America's Cup, still has a breach of fiduciary trust complaint pending against SNG in the New York State Supreme Court. It's not clear whether the case will proceed.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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