Team plans modifications to trimaran

American syndicate BMW Oracle Racing concluded the third testing session with its giant trimaran on Tuesday afternoon and plans significant modifications while waiting to find out if the boat will ever sail for the America's Cup.

BMW Oracle Racing, which has been testing the boat off and on in San Diego since last fall, plans to pull the boat out of the water on Wednesday. It wouldn't give specifics on what modifications will be done to the carbon-fiber boat, which is 90 feet long and 90 feet wide and has a mast as tall as a 16-story building.

"We've really pushed the boat harder than we ever have before," helmsman James Spithill said. "It's pretty impressive to see it all come together."

Whether the cutting-edge boat makes sails for the oldest trophy in international sports hinges on how New York's top court rules on a bitter court case between BMW Oracle Racing and two-time defending America's Cup champion Alinghi of Switzerland.

The Golden Gate Yacht Club, which represents BMW Oracle Racing, argued last month in its last-chance appeal before the New York State Court of Appeals that it is the legitimate Challenger of Record for the next America's Cup, not the Spanish association that was selected by the Swiss.

GGYC and the Swiss yacht club that backs Alinghi have been going at it in court since right after Alinghi successfully defended the Cup with a 5-2 win in July 2007 over Team New Zealand in Valencia, Spain.

GGYC secured a ruling last spring from Judge Herman J. Cahn of the New York State Supreme Court that it was the rightful Challenger of Record, which would give it the right to negotiate with Alinghi to set the rules for the next traditional, multi-challenger America's Cup.

The Americans had argued that the Spanish club picked by the Swiss to be the Challenger of Record was a sham and that the rules proposed for the next regatta are heavily tilted in Alinghi's favor.

But in late July, the Appellate Division issued a surprise 3-2 ruling that CNEV should be the Challenger of Record. It based its decision on what it said was "ambiguous" language in the Deed of Gift, the 19th century document that governs the America's Cup.

The New York State Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on Feb. 10 and a decision is expected sometime before Easter.

If the Americans win in court, they say they will try to negotiate terms of a traditional, multi-challenger regatta with Alinghi. If the two sides can't agree, they'll meet in a one-on-one showdown in giant multihulls.

Alinghi officials have said they've begun building a multihull but will finish it only if necessary.

"Obviously our goal is to get a multichallenger event," Spithill said. "If we can't get the other side to agree and we get forced into the Deed of Gift match, then yeah, we're putting in a lot of hard work here on the whole thing."

If the Americans win the court case, the trimaran will return to the water in San Diego later in the spring.

Spithill said the crew has sailed the trimaran in the 40-knot range.