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America's Cup soap opera won't end

What should have been clear at the start became perfectly clear at the end: Club Náutico Español de Vela is not a proper yacht club under the terms of the America’s Cup Deed of Gift and cannot be challenger of record for the 33rd Cup.

After nearly two years of wrangling over technicalities, on April 2, the New York Court of Appeals — the state’s highest court — ruled for Larry Ellison’s BMW Oracle Racing/Golden Gate Yacht Club and against Ernesto Bertarelli’s Alinghi/Société Nautique de Genève — the current Cup holder — in a battle of billionaire yachtsmen that has dragged on for 21 months in three courts. In a unanimous opinion, the court declared GGYC the challenger of record.

After the ruling, both camps appeared war-weary and ready to talk. But it seemed as if they still were talking past each other. Meeting in Geneva April 23, delegations from the two clubs stuck to their guns. GGYC proposed a conventional multichallenger regatta. SNG said it was prepared to defend the Cup in a “90-by-90-foot boat” in 2010. It said it was open to a multichallenger series, but GGYC would have to agree to give other challengers more time to prepare. GGYC said the court-imposed timeline for a Deed of Gift challenge in 90-footers is February 2010; it said SNG wants to race in May 2010. Click to read the full statements from GGYC and Alinghi.

Meanwhile, the NYYC and four other clubs with Cup histories — the Royal Yacht Squadron, Royal Perth Yacht Club, San Diego Yacht Club and Royal New Zealand Yacht Club — sent an open letter to the two rivals exhorting them “to negotiate together for a fair and equitable multichallenger event,” which they say would be in the “interest of the sport of sailing in general and members of the broad America’s Cup community.”

Unless Ellison and Bertarelli can reach agreement on a smaller boat and a multichallenger protocol, Alinghi and BMW Oracle will duel one-on-one in a best-of-three series in 90-foot multihulls.