Ernesto Bertarelli, the owner and founder of the Alinghi America's Cup team, will do everything in his power to stage sailing's most prestigious competition in UAE waters - if not in February as scheduled, then at the earliest future opportunity.
Bertarelli has not yet given up hope of defending international sport's oldest trophy in Ras al Khaimah (RAK) in two months' time and is waiting anxiously for an appeal verdict from a United States court which could be delivered as early as tomorrow. If a New York judge decides that the best-of-three race series should be moved from RAK to the Spanish port of Valencia, Bertarelli will reluctantly accept it. A possible alternative would be to delay the races until May when RAK will become a legitimate northern hemisphere summer venue. Under the deed of gift, which sets out the rules for staging the competition, the races must be held in the hemisphere where it is summer. Valencia is considered an exception after years of legal wrangling.
Should the competition be held in Spain, Bertarelli intends to win the cup for a third time in Valencia and then defend it in RAK when he will bid to ensure that all possible loopholes to prevent racing taking place here have been closed. Bertarelli, an Italian-born Swiss billionaire, is frustrated that his plan to contest the 33rd America's Cup with the US-based challenger BMW Oracle Racing in RAK has so far been thwarted by legal wrangling.'
Speaking from the helm of Alinghi V, the magnificent catamaran his designers have constructed to face the American trimaran, as he and his teammates conducted a training session 15 miles off the port of Al Hamra, Bertarelli said: "Conditions here since we arrived a couple of months ago have been perfect. It is such a shame that we have not yet secured the right to race here. "To me that takes away the fundamental right of the cup holder to choose the venue. It is crazy to think that a rule that worked very well for 157 years enabling the Americans to decide how they were going to defend the America's Cup all of a sudden doesn't work any more.
"We are the holders and the rightful defenders but we are being prevented from choosing the venue." Bertarelli felt vindicated by the choice of RAK he and his colleagues agreed on. If the race was held in May or September, RAK would stand a greater chance of being accepted as a venue. He said: "Thank God we've had these last few months here because conditions are perfect. We've had a lot of fun sailing in these waters. I am sure that we will have fun in Valencia if we go there but it is going to be more unpredictable than if everybody had showed up here.
"It has been brilliant in RAK. The people here have made us very welcome and enabled us to be operational very quickly. It has been great working with everyone here. I am disappointed for them that it's not happening at the moment but we mustn't write it off yet - our appeal might turn out to be successful." Nevertheless, Team Alinghi have contingency plans for a exodus from RAK before the end of the year.
Bertarelli said: "We needed to make sure that we have enough time to transfer to Valencia if that's what is required and enough time to settle in there and get the boat right for racing. But sending us to Valencia in February does not make any sense. We never wanted that. Besides the fact that it is going to be cold, the sailing conditions are far from perfect. "The breeze is all over the place. There is no thermal stability in the air. It is just the wrong place a the wrong time."
If the Alinghi crew do have to bid farewell to their RAK hosts, the exercise will have been worthwhile according to Bertarelli. He said: "It will have brought the idea of staging the America's Cup here, this has further consolidated our belief that this is a great place for racing, especially in this kind of boat." @Email:email@example.com