America's Cup Diary - October 2008
On the 26th September 1983, Australia II surged past Liberty for that most famous of America's Cup victories, taking the Auld Mug away from the New York Yacht Club after 132 years. The longest winning streak in sport was at an end.
Perhaps it was that sense of history, of time passing them by, that convinced our modern-day battling billionaires - Ernesto Bertarelli and Larry Ellison - to finally meet face to face in San Francisco on 27 September 2008. One day after the quarter-century anniversary of Australia II's controversial wing-keeled victory.
Whatever their reasons, at least something seemed to be happening. The meeting went well, so we are told. Alinghi described the talks as "positive". BMW Oracle Racing said it was a "cordial" meeting. Spokesman for the American team Tom Ehman commented: "Larry Ellison reiterated the GGYC offer - if we return to a multi-challenger event for AC33 with fair and competitive rules similar to those used for AC32, GGYC will withdraw its appeal to the New York Court of Appeals."
In an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro in early October, Bertarelli thought the meeting had gone "very well". He added: "We share the same passion for sailing and our points of view are not very distanced. But as we say ‘the devil is in the detail'. Between two visions that are quite close, interpretation can some times be a little bit different. But I'm still hopeful we'll get along. We talked about what could be done and we'll keep discussing. And not only with Larry. I was this weekend in Saint-Tropez to listen to all those interested in the America's Cup and try to see whether a compromise is possible.
So far so good, the ice seemed to be thawing. Apparently there was meant to be a follow-up meeting to take things further, but according to Alinghi, Larry didn't show. "It is with surprise that Ernesto Bertarelli has learnt through the media that the meeting he was expecting to have with Larry Ellison during his stay in Europe is not taking place," said a terse statement on the Alinghi.com website. "Nevertheless, Mr Bertarelli and Team Alinghi will continue to hold discussions with all the relevant people of our sport in order to return the action back to the water as soon as possible."
Note the use of the word "relevant" there. Does that mean Larry is no longer "relevant"? These subtleties of language matter at times like these, and it suggests that the billionaires' entente cordiale has ended as abruptly as it began.
Meanwhile the rest of the Cup community is becoming increasingly excited about the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series in Auckland early next year. Head of Emirates Team New Zealand, Grant Dalton, says they have had enquiries from 23 teams for an event limited to 12 entries. Such has been the level of interest that BMW Oracle has offered its two 2007-generation boats, USA 87 and USA 98, for use alongside the two boats being provided by Emirates Team New Zealand. The hope is that this event will help get the Cup back on track, and perhaps the announcement of the event did play a part in getting Bertarelli and Ellison back together - albeit briefly - in late September.With the ongoing lack of certainty about the Cup's future, Emirates Team New Zealand have decided to launch their own TP52 campaign into next year's Audi MedCup Circuit, which seems to have become the default option for aspiring Cup challengers to focus their otherwise wasted energies. Dean Barker, who steered the King of Spain's boat Bribon to 2nd place in this year's circuit, will skipper the team alongside other prominent ETNZ sailors such as Ray Davies, Kevin Hall and Adam Beashel.