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August 1, 2009

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Home » Sports » Sailing

Alinghi wins duel over sails on boats

IN a departure from nautical tradition, a New York judge ruled on Thursday that it is OK for the giant multihulls that will sail for the America's Cup next year to use engines to trim sails and move water ballast.

The ruling by Justice Shirley Kornreich of the New York State Supreme Court is a victory for two-time defending champion Alinghi of Switzerland in a convoluted, two-year court fight with challenger BMW Oracle Racing of San Francisco. The two bitter rivals will meet in a best-of-3 showdown in February in what could be the most spectacular racing in the 158-year history of the America's Cup. The space age-looking yachts can sail 2 to 2 1/2 times the speed of the wind.

The latest court spat started earlier this month when Alinghi launched its 90-foot catamaran that included what's been described as a snowmobile engine on its aft beam. The engine is part of a hydraulic system that powers the winches that trim the gigantic sails, as well as moves water ballast from one hull to the other.

BMW Oracle Racing then asked Kornreich to hold Alinghi in contempt unless it follows the Racing Rules of Sailing without alterations. The Americans said the Swiss claimed the right to change the rules for the match at any time without mutual consent.

Kornreich ruled that she found nothing in the Deed of Gift, the 1887 document that loosely governs the America's Cup, to prohibit the engine.

"A blatant example of a design feature that would violate the Deed is an engine used to propel the boat; the Deed permits only vessels 'propelled by sails,'" the justice wrote. "The Deed does not, however, contain any restrictions on ballast or design features regarding trimming the sails. These features are therefore permitted because they are not prohibited by the language of the Deed."

BMW Oracle Racing officials said Kornreich's ruling makes it clear that Racing Rules of Sailing 49-52 will not apply to either side during the rare one-on-one showdown, including banning the use of non-manual power and moving water ballast.

The Americans weren't pleased. "Without racing rules 49-54, SNG is breaking with the long-standing history and tradition in yacht racing that prohibited the use of non-manual power," BMW Oracle Racing said.


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