SAN DIEGO // A judge has ruled that the Ras al Khaimah port cannot host the America's Cup based on the 19th-century document that governs sailing's marque regatta. The ruling by Justice Shirley Kornreich of the New York State Supreme Court is a blow to the two-time defending champions Alinghi of Switzerland. The Swiss picked the Gulf for their February showdown against the American challenger BMW Oracle Racing.
Judge Kornreich said her decision was based on the stipulation in the Deed of Gift that the America's Cup cannot be sailed in the Northern Hemisphere between November 1 and May 1, not on concerns by the Americans that RAK was unsafe due to its proximity to Iran. "I don't believe that I have the ability to deviate from the Deed of Gift," Kornreich said. The rare one-on-one showdown in massive multihulled boats now appears headed to Valencia, Spain, unless the bitter rivals can agree on another port that complies with the Deed of Gift. In that case, it would have to be in the Southern Hemisphere. Although Valencia is in the Northern Hemisphere, neither side objected in court to holding the best-of-three series in the Spanish port. Valencia hosted the 2007 America's Cup. Kornreich said she ruled from the bench on Tuesday to speed an expected appeal by the Swiss team. The best-of-three series is scheduled to begin on February 8. Judge Kornreich said she ruled from the bench on Tuesday to give Alinghi's backing yacht club, Societe Nautique de Geneve, time to appeal if it chooses. "Your honour, you're cancelling the America's Cup," said Barry Ostrager, who represents SNG. "This is sort of a cataclysmic decision that you're making," he added, warning of "colossal harm to the sport, the event, to RAK and the America's Cup". He later softened the "cancelling" remark, saying the next step was for SNG to determine whether it is possible to stage the race in February. Alinghi has been sailing its 90-foot catamaran, Alinghi 5, in Ras al Khaimah for more than a week. BMW Oracle Racing's 90-foot trimaran, which will be named USA, has been undergoing testing in San Diego since last autumn. The space age-looking craft is back in the water after undergoing extensive modifications. David Boies, a lawyer for Golden Gate Yacht Club, which backs BMW Oracle Racing, said the upheaval "doesn't have to be cataclysmic". Valencia was ready to host the race, he said. Judge Kornreich acknowledged time was growing short: "I think that the race is being endangered," she said. The Swiss picked RAK based on an April order by a different judge that they could sail the match in Valencia or "any other location selected by SNG." The Americans fought the choice based on the Deed of Gift, arguing in one court document that RAK was no more eligible to host the America's Cup than the Colorado River. Alinghi's choice of RAK has been the most contentious issue in a convoluted, two-year court fight between the Silicon Valley maverick Larry Ellison of Oracle Corporation and the Swiss biotech mogul Ernesto Bertarelli. Ellison owns BMW Oracle Racing and Bertarelli owns Alinghi. Soon after the Swiss picked RAK in early August, Ellison raised concerns because the sailing would take place about 129km (80 miles) from Iran's coastline. * AP