The Club Náutico Español de Vela has been reinstated as the Challenger of Record in a ruling by the New York appeals court in the latest twist surrounding the 33rd America's Cup.
The ruling from the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court, reversed the earlier decision made by Justice Herman Cahn, which declared the challenge from the Club Náutico Español de Vela (CNEV) as invalid and in their place inserted the Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) as Challenger of Record. That original ruling was made in November 2007 and since then a serious of legal battles between the Defending Yacht Club, the Société Nautique de Genève (SNG), and the GGYC had appeared to be leading towards a so-named 'Deed of Gift' best-of-three race match between the teams of the two clubs, Alinghi and BMW ORACLE Racing respectively, in giant multihulls to be held sometime in 2009.
However, the Cup now appears to be back at square one, with CNEV reinstated as Challenger of Record after the SNG won its appeal on a 3-2 ruling by the Appellate Division (the intermediate appellate court in New York State). The Appellate Division disagreed with Justice Herman Cahn's ruling that the CNEV did not meet the criteria in the Deed of Gift outlining a valid challenger, in particular the annual regatta requirement, which Cahn had ruled "implies that the organization has had one or more regattas in the past, and will continue to have them in the future.". The Appellate Division ruled the phase "having for its annual regatta" was ambiguous and cited the SNG's challenge for the 31st Cup, as extrinsic evidence that a Challenger could be valid despite not having held an annual regatta at the time of the Challenge, but with the intention to hold one. The Court also stated that the ten-month notice period the Challenger must give the Defender, "should be tolled until service of a copy of this order."
Alinghi responded to the ruling with an initial indication that they we seek to return to the format of the 33rd Cup first agreed with the CNEV, with a Challenger series leading up to the 33rd America's Cup Match.
Ernesto Bertarelli, Alinghi president, commented, "We are delighted with this result; we can now continue with our vision of a multi-challenger event. The court's decision validates our actions and enables us to put the America's Cup back on the water."
Lucien Masmejan, SNG lead counsel, added, "We must now evaluate whether adjustments have to be made due to the time consumed by its [the GGYC] improper litigation initiatives."
However, it is likely there will be more action in the court rooms before any racing gets underway, as with two dissenting voices in the ruling by the Appellate Division, the GGYC has an automatic right to appeal to New York State's highest court, the New York Court of Appeals.
"We are surprised and disappointed by this ruling. We will now be taking legal advice and considering the next step,"
Tom Ehman, the GGYC's spokesman, said.
Click here to read the full decision by the Appellate Division