September 01, 2008
The Only Sure Winners in the America's Cup: Lawyers
Like most lubbers, I've never really cared much about the America's Cup and the millionaires -- oh, sorry, billionaires -- who compete in it. Indeed, I have often said that most of my knowledge of the sea comes from SpongeBob. But I'm working my way through Patrick O'Brian's masterful Jack Aubrey novels, and I can now better understand the call of the sea. Still, here on land, I always cheer for the lawyers. And thanks to a fight between Oracle billionaire Lawrence Ellison and Swiss/Italian billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli, the lawyers have already made a terrific showing in the most recent regatta.
The dispute, it appears, is over what entity will be the race's official challenger to Bertarelli's team, Alinghi of Switzerland, supported by the Societe Nautique de Geneve yacht club. According to the AP, a New York trial court's ruling, awarding that status to Golden Gate Yacht Club, which supports Ellison's BMW Oracle Racing yacht, was reversed by the Appellate Division on a 3-2 vote. Instead, the Appellate Division determined that the challenger of record is Spain's Club Nautico Espanol de Vela, which Ellison's group claims is a sham. Ellison's group will proceed to New York's Court of Appeals.
If they win, it will mean a one-on-one showdown for the America's Cup, pictured at left. Otherwise, the race will involve all comers. According to the New York Times, the dispute will turn on interpretations of the 1887 "deed of gift" that governs the race and the rules that govern the 33rd running of the race. Beyond that, details of the nature of the legal dispute are rather hard to come by. Readers who have kept up with the year-long legal battle, please feel free to chime in.
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