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America's Cup saga drags as rivals back in court

ANOTHER court fight is revving up between America's Cup rivals BMW Oracle Racing and Alinghi, and this one includes the legality of an engine aboard the Swiss catamaran.

At the request of San Francisco's BMW Oracle Racing, the Supreme Court of the State of New York ordered two-time defending America's Cup champion Alinghi to show why it should not be held in contempt for failing to provide the Americans their rights as challenger.

A hearing has been set for Tuesday in the Manhattan court.

BMW Oracle Racing is asking the court to force Alinghi to use the Racing Rules of Sailing without alterations when the rivals meet in a best-of-three showdown in giant multihulls for the oldest trophy in international sports beginning on February 8.

"This is highly technical but pretty important," BMW Oracle Racing spokesman Tom Ehman said on Tuesday. "They're playing fast and loose with the rules."

Barry Ostrager, a New York lawyer who has represented Alinghi in a two-year court fight, scoffed at the American syndicate's claims.

"They're jerking everybody around," Ostrager said. "I will tell you categorically and emphatically that they're obviously concerned about an adverse outcome in the upcoming February 2010 Deed of Gift match. They're flailing. This is completely without merit."

Ehman said the Swiss have claimed the right to change the rules for the match at any time without mutual consent, and have entered into a secret agreement with sailing's international governing body, ISAF.

A real eye-opener in this latest spat is that BMW Oracle Racing says an engine is clearly visible on the aft crossbeam of the 27-meter catamaran the Swiss launched on Lake Geneva last week.

"That engine can only be there for one of two reasons," Ehman said. "They could be trying to turn a propeller, but we don't think they're going that far. We think it's for driving winches. They intend to use power for trimming sails."


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