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Many surprises at Challenger Meeting in Valencia

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World NZL on 4 Dec 2007
Some of the 24 Challenger representatives gather around the table in Valencia, with the others communicating by telephone. Valenciasailing.com http://www.valenciasailing.com

Golden Gate YC, the Challenger of Record for the 33rd America’s Cup have announced that various Challenger representatives met on Monday evening in Valencia in a joint effort to move forward the process for the next America’s Cup.

'It was a very good meeting. The challengers agree that certainty is needed to return to a conventional America’s Cup regatta and we are committed to working together to get the event back on track,' said BMWOR Head of External Affairs, Tom Ehman in the communiqué issued following the meeting.

Twenty-four representatives of 14 challengers met in Valencia and by telephone conference.

The website ValenciaSailing.com named those present as:

• BMW Oracle: Russell Coutts (CEO), Melinda Erkelens (GGYC General Counsel) and Tom Ehman
• Team Origin: Mike Sanderson (General Manager)
• United Internet Team Germany: Jochen Schuemann (General Manager) and Mirko Groeschner (Business Manager)
• Victory Challenge: Johan Stenman (General Manager) and Magnus Holmberg (Skipper)
• AYRE: Augusto Sanguinetti (Member of the Technical Team) and Jose Luis Del Moral (Legal Counselor)
• Desafío Español: John Cutler
• Mascalzone Latino: Alessandra Pandarese (General Counselor)
• Luna Rossa: Luis Saenz (General Counselor)
• Shosholoza: Shirley Mullins (Shore Base Manager)

The other teams are thought to be those previously involved with the 32nd America’s Cup, being Emirates Team NZ (Grant Dalton and Kevin Shoebridge), K-Challenge, China Team, and a second Italian team plus a third ESP team.

Notable for their presence were Luna Rossa, who had earlier said they were not a competitor in the 33rd America’s Cup, after the controversial CNEV negotiated Protocol was announced.

It is understood that Alinghi are meeting tonight (NZT) to discuss their position and future situation. This is believed to be a contemplation as to whether they lodge an Appeal, sail off in multihulls in July 2008, or negotiate a Protocol for a Match in 2009 in the AC90 class.

The majority of the Challengers are believed to be seeking an America’s Cup to be sailed in 2009, in Valencia, in the AC90 class. Those that would not participate in 2009 would sail in 2011.

The Protocol negotiated between the previous Challenger of Record, Club Nautico Espanol de Vela and the Defender, Societe Nautique de Geneve, is expected to largely remain intact for the new situation, except where this was notified in the Nine Point Plan, put forward by Golden Gate YC on 17th October.

It is understaood that Russell Coutts asserted that GGYC/BMWOR will not as a sole charge Challenger of Record, and will revert to the model started in 1992 with a democratically run Challenger of Record Committee being organised, where each Challenger had one vote and all issues being determined on a majority or, where appropriate, unanimous vote (e.g., changes to the class rule).

The key changes in the Nine Point Plan related to the allowance of two boat testing, now from March-April 2009,(currently completely outlawed, except from ACM organised events).

The other significant change in the Plan is that the Defender may sail in the Challenger Selection Series, but will not score points for the event – meaning that the racing involving the Defender will be treated largely as a bye for the competing Challenger.

Sail-World understands that should BMW Oracle be successful in their Challenge in 2009, then they will return to Valencia for a Defence in 2011.

It is expected that the 2009 America’s Cup will be sailed along traditional lines. It remains to be seen if a combined event will be run (Challenger Selection Series and America’s Cup) to avoid duplicate organisation, or whether the model of the Challengers owning their Selection Series will be used.

In this latter circumstance, it is believed that Louis Vuitton would return to the America’s Cup fold, and the Louis Vuitton Cup would again be contested.

Next move, after the Alinghi internal meeting, is expected be to ascertain as to whether the Defender will actually meet with the Challenger group and Challenger of Record. If not, then the current stand-off will continue.

There has still been no statement from either SNG or CNEV that they will, or will not, Appeal the decision of Justice Herman Cahn, handed down last Tuesday. The Appeal period is thirty days which runs out around the end of December.

For further pictures see www.valenciasailing.com or http://www.valenciasailing.blogspot.com!click_here

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