Friday, 28 September 2007

Injuries, Illness and Drugs…

A quick round up today, as I’ve got to catch a plane to the Nioulargue (or whatever they call it these days) which, as winter started in England this week, doesn’t seem a bad thing at all…

The bad news is the America’s Cup’s first doping case – the Alinghi website posted a statement from trimmer Simon Daubney yesterday, explaining that he’d tested positive on both the A and the B samples for a recreational drug.

In a subsequent appearance before the Jury for the 32nd America’s Cup, Daubney’s explanation that he was a ‘victim of contamination and or drink spiking’ (which contention was backed up by a polygraph test) was accepted. The jury concluded that there was no fault or negligence on Daubney’s part. Despite that, Daubney has resigned from the team until he’s taken further steps to clear his name - still, not exactly Ben Johnson….

Elsewhere, Yahoo have a bit of a short non-story on the K-Challenge preparations for the next Cup – Stephane Kandler hopes to have a major sponsor by the end of next month, but it doesn’t sound like it’s Areva, as they are quoted as not having been asked to back the French challenge.

And the New Zealand Herald have reported that Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) tactician Terry Hutchinson won’t be back with the Kiwis for the next Cup. Hutchinson is moving on after a successful stint with ETNZ saying, 'Following the conclusion of the 32nd event, I could not come to terms with the team on how we should go forward. I have the utmost respect for them, but an America’s Cup campaign is a very intense commitment, and I did not feel I could continue under the circumstances'.

Since I contributed at least one cold and a strained Achilles, I can’t go without pointing you in the direction of Vernon Neville’s report on sickness and health amongst America’s Cup crews. Neville was Luna Rossa’s fitness coach, and if I remember rightly, this was his PhD work at Loughborough University. So I guess it’s now Dr Neville to you, my son. Personally, I think the new appellation should be withheld until he’s finally learned the offside rule - this is an English university PhD after all…

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Mark Chisnell ©

Monday, 24 September 2007

One Small Step for Alinghi…

Might be a giant step for America’s Cup racing – or it might not.... Alinghi appeared to blink first in their stand-off with Oracle Racing over the Protocol for the 33rd America’s Cup, when on Friday they announced that they were making some changes to the disputed Protocol, after discussions with the Arbitration Panel and those competitors that have already entered.

The Société Nautique de Genève (SNG) and Alinghi’s announcement came with an appeal to BMW Oracle Racing and the Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) to lay down their weapons – the court case due to be heard on the 22nd October – and enter the event under the new Protocol. They reckon that the changes address many of the issues raised by GGYC, and Alinghi skipper Brad Butterworth referred to recent discussions with Russell Coutts, Oracle’s skipper.

The changes to the Protocol are:

The power to disqualify a competitor has been clarified so that should a competitor refuse to be bound by the Protocol, they now have recourse to the Arbitration Panel before they can be thrown out.

America’s Cup Management (ACM) can now only refuse entry to the event on specific grounds – such as capacity at the venue.

There are changes to the power of ACM to amend the Protocol in relation to the Arbitration Panel, and these changes must now be subjected to Arbitration Panel approval first. ACM no longer have the power to remove members of the Arbitration Panel.

The ‘neutral management’ has been changed so that the Fair Sailing rule is extended to apply to all matters directly related to the regatta.

If you want to decide for yourself if this will keep BMW Oracle from the court, they list their issues with the 33rd Protocol in their media backgrounder here...

Or you can cut to the chase and go straight to an article on the Guardian website, where Tom Ehman (Head of External Affairs for BMW Oracle Racing) is quoted as saying that ‘We welcome some new points, but the changes are largely cosmetic and do not address the central issues.’ Ehman added that GGYC will not be withdrawing the court case on the basis of these amendments, and they want to negotiate a settlement directly with SNG.

So it looks like we will rumble on towards the day in court for now - whether or not this first step closer to a negotiated settlement will be followed up with more remains to be seen. Presumably GGYC are now in a better position to judge the strength of the SNG case, as they had to file their papers with the court last week. Alinghi appear to have posted these documents on their website here. As I believe I've mentioned before, if I wanted to read this stuff myself, I'd have taken law classes...

Meanwhile, United Internet Team Germany, one of those teams who have entered under the current Protocol, have got their man - Jochen Schuemann has left Alinghi to lead the German challenge. Schuemann had been sailing director at Alinghi for the last two Cups. But his absence from the race boat in the 32rd Match against Team New Zealand hinted at a coming departure. There's an interview with Schuemann on BYM.

Schuemann is joined by Jason Ker, the Brit who was chief designer at Team Shosholoza, the South African entry in the last event. Porsche and Audi have put their money down as sponsors, and the team has bought one of the Alinghi boats - SUI-91. There’s a report on the press conference on the Valencia Sailing blogspot.

And earlier last week, ACM doled out the 66.5 million euro profit from the previous America’s Cup. ACM take a ten percent cut as a management fee (this is after all the costs have been deducted from the gross of 240 million euros), then 45% goes to Alinghi, and the rest is shared between the challengers. ACM state that Emirates Team New Zealand will receive over nine million euros as the Challenger, while those teams that didn’t make the semi-finals will be making do with just over a million each - not quite enough to hire a top flight skipper then...?

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Mark Chisnell ©

Friday, 14 September 2007

Team Origin Announces...

In the rather incongruous surroundings of a sand pit in the back blocks of the Southampton Boat Show, Team Origin, the British Challenge for the 33rd America’s Cup, announced it’s line-up this morning.

The headline appointments won’t come as any huge surprise to readers of the Cup tea leaves, with Ben Ainslie skipper and Juan Kouyoumdjian as principal designer. But if you dig a bit deeper (and you can do it yourself here - but I warn you that this is a 3M PDF file) there are some interesting appointments.

On the sailing side, Ben has been joined at the back of the boat by Iain Percy – these two have been raising flags on their intentions to win the America’s Cup together for some years now. Percy brings his Star crew, Andrew Simpson, with him, as aft grinder and strategist. Joining from Team Director Mike Sanderson’s winning Volvo Ocean Race boat, ABN Amro, is Rob Greenhalgh, as strategist and traveler – the up-the-mast role going almost exclusively to skiff sailors these days it seems. While Ben has brought navigator Ian Moore with him from Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ), where they sailed the ‘B’ boat together.

But the most notable defection from ETNZ is Andy Claughton, who joins as Design Coordinator, a role he filled in 2007 for ETNZ. He’s had some kind of involvement with the Kiwi Cup teams dating right back to 1987, and he will leave at big hole over at Grant Dalton’s camp.

Also on the technical side, Mickey Ickert has come from BMW Oracle, where he’s spent the last three Cups, and will be Aero Director – the lead sail designer. And to complete the rig package, spar designer Bruce Thompson also joins from Oracle along with trimmer, Robby Naismith – keeping it in the family. And with Neal McDonald on the mainsheet (who knows a bit about mast design himself) this is a really strong aero development team. Another notable on the technical side is Stan Honey, who was Mike Sanderson’s navigator on ABN Amro. Honey joins as Technical Director and navigator.

Up the front of the boat we have Chris Brittle, David Carr, Pawel Bielecki and Ian Weighell turning handles, with Julien Cressant and George Skuodas on the mast, and Kevin Batten, Justin Slattery and Matt Cornwell on the bow, with Nick Bice as Boat Captain.

And last but not least, the single most important part of the Cup game is having the money, and so perhaps the most important addition to the Origin team announced this morning was Charles Dunstone as partner and investor. Dunstone, of the Carphone Warehouse, has been a Cup enthusiast for some time, and it’s great to see him finally committing to the support of a British effort.

And there you have it – it’s a great line-up. There are some gaps - only one trimmer for the sails in front of the mast being an obvious one (and my apologies to Andrea Avaldi - formerly Luna Rossa's senior structural designer - who will take on that role for TeamOrigin. In a previous version of this post I'd said that there was a gap here too - but the eagle eyed have pointed out his presence in the on-line PDF profiles. Unfortunately, he wasn't in the printed version given out at the launch which I used to write this initially. I guess he was signed up a little late to make the print run). And with more signatures promised, these guys are up and running in a big way.

But there's a postscript - I mentioned in a previous blog that I didn't see too many people in the America's Cup giving children a chance to experience sailing - the only real way to build an audience for the event. The Royal Yachting Association has been trying to do this for some time, with its OnBoard programme, which is hoping to introduce half a million young people to sailing over a ten year period. TeamOrigin is the main partner to this programme. This is not just how you build an audience for the professional sport, it's also how you find the next generation of talent, by giving as many people as possible the opportunity to discover they love sailing and are good at it...

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Mark Chisnell ©

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Memo-by-Affidavit

This is turning into something of a manual news aggregation service, as I really don’t have much to add about the whole memo-by-affidavit battle currently being waged in the New York courts, as the Golden Gate Yacht Club/Oracle (GGYC), go up against Société Nautique de Genève/Alinghi (SNG) in their dispute over the Protocol for the 33rd America's Cup.

So I'll get straight to the point - and push you in the direction of Scuttlebutt where New York lawyer, Cory E. Friedman is following the proceedings in Justice Cahn’s court for that internet magazine.

First up, check out the second half of Cory’s analysis of the pre-start moves - the affidavit’s and memorandum filed by SNG ahead of yesterday’s court hearing. Then you can read Cory’s report on the hearing itself.

The bones of it is that both sides will file papers and the judgement will be based on those papers – there will only be a trial if Justice Cahn subsequently decides he needs one and that, apparently, is unlikely.

The schedule is that SNG will file on 17th September, GGYC on 1st October, with the responses being due between 5th and 19th October and a hearing on the 22nd October - when we may get a judgement and if not, if should emerge pretty soon afterwards.

So, this looks more like a two mile windward-leeward than a round the world race at this stage, let’s hope it stays that way. On this schedule, there’s a good chance the court case will be decided before the new rule for the ninety footers has even been announced – unless someone appeals…

You can read Alinghi’s take on it here…

And the GGYC’s view of yesterday’s action is right here…

Meanwhile, as we mentioned in Saturday’s post the America's Cup Management (ACM) Arbitration Panel have filed their full decision. There was a suggestion in the conclusions to the ruling, published on Saturday, that SNG/ACM might consider changing some points of the disputed Protocol. It turns out that these all relate to the Arbitration Panel’s own operation and SNG’s right to dismiss the Panel’s members and change its mechanics of operation - nothing here that is going to make GGYC much happier, and the New York Court will remain the focus of the argument. But if you've got the time, there's a lot of background stuff in that judgement that will likely also be coming before Justice Cahn, and it may help you make your own mind up - should you want to...

Elsewhere, the Valencia Sailing blogspot has an excellent account of a Desafio Espanol press conference (whose Club Nautico Español de Vela (CNEV) lawyers were in New York the same afternoon), in which they announced that Farr Yacht Design will be working for Desafio this time around.

If you’ve been paying attention, you should now be wondering – who’s going to be working with Russell Coutts at Oracle? Juan K was there with Farr last time, but he’s been linked to just about everybody, particularly the Brits. They are supposed to be presenting their design and sailing team at the Southampton Boat Show this Friday, so I guess we may all learn a little more about how the cards are falling out then.

It's not yacht racing as we know it, but it's not dull either, is it?

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Mark Chisnell ©

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Arbitration Panel Rules

Those of you who have been following the affair of the 33rd Protocol carefully, will remember that America's Cup Management (ACM) had referred the validity of Club Nautico Español de Vela (CNEV) (the Challenger of Record disputed by the Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC)) - to the Arbitration Panel set up by ACM to adjudicate over the 33rd America's Cup.

Whatever you thought about that, and GGYC didn't think much, the Arbitration Panel has just come to a decision. This is the ACM press release on the matter, which you can read here.

'This afternoon, the Arbitration Panel reached a decision on the ACAP 33/01 case, in the matter of the Protocol governing the 33rd America’s Cup and in the matter of an application filed by SNG on July 20, 2007 in respect of the validity of the challenge of Club Nautico Español de Vela (“CNEV”) for the 33rd America’s Cup. In compliance with directions from the Arbitration Panel, the full document will be made available from this website Monday September 10, but it the meantime this is the summary of the decision:

“[162] The decision of the Panel is the following:

The Panel (i) has the competence to rule on its own jurisdiction and (ii) also has jurisdiction to rule on the present matter;

The challenge for the 33rd America’s Cup made by CNEV on July 3, 2007 (i) is a valid challenge entitling CNEV to challenge for the America’s Cup as Challenger of Record and (ii) SNG is obligated to accept (as it was the first valid challenge it received);

The Protocol signed by SNG and CNEV on July 3, 2007 complies with the Deed of Gift; and

Although this does not affect the compliance of the existing Protocol with the Deed of Gift, the Panel believes that SNG and CNEV should consider amending the Protocol in respect of some of its provisions as stated in point points [155] and [156]."'

It will be interesting to see what changes the Panel have proposed in points 155 and 156. I guess we get to see that on Monday - will it be enough to keep GGYC happy? That's also the day when the action opens in Justice Cahn's court...

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Mark Chisnell ©

Friday, 7 September 2007

Explainer: The Small Print

I couldn't let this one go by for anyone that doesn't subscribe to that fine internet magazine, Scuttlebutt. The people there have got Cory E. Friedman, a New York lawyer, to do what I've been avoiding (partly because I know nothing about it, and partly because if I wanted to spend my life reading affidavits and legalese I wouldn't have ended up here doing this...), that is - read the Golden Gate Yacht Club's (GGYC) legal papers and assess the coming court case.

So here's Cory's assessment of the opening salvoes in the court battle from the GGYC - hopefully there will be more along soon, when the Societe Nautique de Geneve step into the ring - because I sure ain't gonna do it for you...

And some good news from America's Cup Management (ACM), who have announced that Tom Schnackenberg will be a consultant to the rule development process for the 90 footers proposed in Alinghi's 33rd Protocol. Schnackenberg's role will be as class rule and competition regulations consultant for the design consultation period, which starts on the 15th September and runs through six weeks of discussion with the current challengers, until the rule is published on the 31st October.

Grant Simmer, design team coordinator for Alinghi, had this to say, 'Tom's responsibility will be to consult and consider the input of the entered challengers and to publish the new class rule by 31st October. Tom will also work on other racing regulations related to the 33rd America's Cup.'

But while Schnackenberg's recent work has been with the challengers (Luna Rossa in 2007), his future allegiance is not in doubt - Simmer added, 'Once he has completed these tasks we look forward to welcoming Tom in the Alinghi design team.'

I doubt anyone will regard this appointment as anything other than good news - Schnackenberg's critical role in winning the America's Cup three times (Australia II in '83, New Zealand in '95 and 2000) and his technical brilliance are unquestioned. Hopefully he'll also bring the authority to the group to ensure that the many different views and ideas that will be expressed in these discussions evolve into a great boat - you know what they say about camels and committees....

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Mark Chisnell ©

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Coming at You...

A flurry of news from the Cup in the last few days, so we’ll start at the beginning with a link to a nice story by the people at BYM News, who have gone to the trouble of reading Tom Ehman’s affidavit (as presented to the New York State Supreme Court by the Golden Gate Yacht Club’s (GGYC) legal team, in their challenge to Société Nautique de Genève (SNG)). In which Tom has an interesting story about an SNG ploy to hand the Cup off to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, should they become unstuck in the New York Court.

BYM followed up this affidavit analysis with another cracker of a story, in which John Crawford, Commodore of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, denied all knowledge of the plan...

And for those of you who like nothing better than curling up in bed at night with a good legal document to read, I can offer you the decision from the 1988 court case. In which Mercury Bay Yacht Club went up against San Diego YC in a similar dust up over the nature of the next event. The court gives some interesting opinions that will presumably be taken into account in deciding the case now before it.

Then there was the fall-out on the story from the previous post, in which Ernesto Bertarelli had apparently asked that the chairman of the jury at the recent Farr 40 Worlds, Tom Ehman (the very same as mentioned above) should step down. But the jury, the class, and ISAF all decided otherwise, and Ehman stayed. As reported by Stuart Alexander amongst others, Ernesto followed that up by not turning up for the prize giving, after being beaten into second place by Vincenzo Onorato and his Mascalzone Latino team. Onorato is one of the refuseniks that have spoken out against Alinghi’s Protocol for the 33rd Cup.

Meanwhile, Team Origin, the British Challenger for the America’s Cup, have been throwing their weight behind Alinghi’s wheel with a statement on their website arguing for the Protocol. Of the three points they present in favour of the Protocol only one of them is actually in that document, the others were presented at a subsequent press conference and currently have no official standing - but leaving that hair splitting aside, the Brits clearly have a strategy in backing Alinghi, and I’m sure it will become apparent, sooner or later…

And then there’s ACM, who yesterday (presumably, as I can’t find any evidence of it) presented papers to the New York State Supreme Court in defence of their position. And for good measure gave a progress report on preparations for the 33rd Cup. Their account of it is on their website, while BYM News have a story on the views of Hamish Ross (who’s Alinghi’s legal counsel) on the court case. There isn't too much here that we haven't heard before, but it is good to see ACM coming out and defending their position, rather than just ranting at Ellison.

And on that theme, AFP report that Brad Butterworth offered Oracle and the Golden Gate Yacht Club an entry into the Cup (under the current Protocol). Butterworth is quoted as saying, ‘If Golden Gate entered now, and got on with the game of the America's Cup, they'd be accepted. We want them to be in the next America's Cup.’ And it does look as though the warring parties might be talking to each other...

ACM also announced that United Internet Team Germany have become the fifth official challenge to enter under the protocol for the 33rd America’s Cup.

And finally… the Valencia Sailing Blogspot reports that the contract for Valencia to host the 33rd America's Cup has been signed, although there appears to be some issue amongst the three Spanish signatories as to who’s actually running the show.

Make that... almost finally... as in that same Valencia Sailing story, there’s a report on the Vuelta de España a Vela which is apparently CNEV's latest 'annual regatta on an arm of the sea'. So far, Mr Pierre Orphanidis doesn’t sound very convinced…

So now you’re as up to date as I am - but are you any the wiser as to how this is all going to turn out? I’m certainly not.

And that's about all you're going to get in the way of insight and analysis on all this, but hey, I've got a novel to finish....

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Mark Chisnell ©