America's Cup champion Alinghi of Switzerland is asking a New York court to disqualify American syndicate BMW Oracle Racing as Challenger of Record if it doesn't provide details about its 90-foot trimaran within 30 days.
San Francisco's Golden Gate Yacht Club, which backs BMW Oracle Racing, has been ordered to tell the Supreme Court of the State of New York at a hearing on May 14 why it hasn't provided Alinghi with a Custom House registry, which is a measurement certificate for the three-hulled boat.
At the same hearing, Alingi must tell the court why it should not be held in contempt for refusing to comply with an order that its one-on-one showdown against the American crew be held in February.
It's the latest twist in a bitter fight between billionaires Larry Ellison, the computer software maverick who owns BMW Oracle Racing, and Ernesto Bertarelli, a Swiss biotech tycoon who owns Alinghi, the two-time defending America's Cup champion.
"There is a provision in the Deed of Gift that when you launch a boat, you have to file with the appropriate authorities a certificate that describes all the dimensions of the boat, as launched," Barry Ostrager, a New York-based lawyer for Alinghi's backing yacht club, Societe Nautique de Geneve, said Monday. "Since the GGYC boat with which they're challenging has been launched, we're entitled to get a copy of that document under the terms of the Deed of Gift. For whatever reason, they don't want to seem to turn it over."
BMW Oracle Racing said Alinghi is apparently on a fishing expedition to find out details of its massive trimaran, and that this is a tit-for-tat move in response to the Americans going to court over the dates of the best-of-three showdown next year.
"Having failed in its two-year battle to remove Golden Gate Yacht Club as the rightful Challenger of Record, Societe Nautique de Geneve/Alinghi is making yet another groundless attempt to avoid the court's final judgment and further delay the America's Cup," according to a statement posted on GGYC's Web site. "We fully expect that the court will promptly resolve the Custom House registry issue, as GGYC is in complete compliance with the Deed of Gift."
GGYC spokesman Tom Ehman said the Americans would provide the registry as soon as possible, but declined further comment.
GGYC apparently has been able to use a technicality in not turning over a Custon House registry, which is issued by the Coast Guard.
When BMW Oracle Racing launched its space age-looking craft late last summer in Anacortes, Wash., it was not the Challenger of Record, having had a New York appellate court take away that distinction in a convoluted legal fight.
With a last-chance appeal pending before New York's highest court, BMW Oracle Racing put the trimaran through initial sea trials on Puget Sound, then moved it to San Diego last fall for two testing sessions on the Pacific Ocean.
It announced in early March that it planned significant modifications while waiting to find out if the boat would sail for the America's Cup.
In early April, New York's top court unanimously ruled that GGYC, not a Spanish club chosen by the Swiss, was the Challenger of Record.
The trimaran has been hidden away at a San Diego boatyard, with the syndicate refusing to say what is being done to it.
The Swiss could be trying to prevent the Americans from modifying the boat further.
"You wouldn't want to have a challenger say, 'I'm going to challenge in a boat with dimensions A-B-C-D, then show up with a boat with dimensions E-F-G-H," Ostrager said. "It's a very straightforward requirement of the Deed of Gift."
Alinghi said recently that it is preparing to hold the best-of-three series beginning in May 2010.
However, when the New York State Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in early April that Golden Gate Yacht Club was the rightful Challenger of Record, it said the match would be in 10 months, meaning early February.
BMW Oracle Racing officials believe the Swiss are stalling in an attempt to finish their catamaran, which reportedly could be 110 feet long. The Swiss have given no details of the boat.