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October 29, 2009

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Home » Sports » Sailing

Court rules out UAE as port for America's Cup

RAS al-Khaimah in United Arab Emirates cannot host the America's Cup based on the 19th-century document that governs sailing's marquee regatta, a New York judge ruled on Tuesday.

The decision by Justice Shirley Kornreich of the New York State Supreme Court was a blow to two-time defending champion Alinghi of Switzerland.

The Swiss picked the little-known Persian Gulf port for its February showdown against American challenger BMW Oracle Racing.

Kornreich said her decision was based on the stipulation in the 1887 Deed of Gift that the America's Cup cannot be sailed in the Northern Hemisphere between November 1 and May 1, not on concerns by the Americans that Ras al-Khaimah was unsafe due to its proximity to Iran.

"I don't believe that I have the ability to deviate from the Deed of Gift," Kornreich said.

The rare one-on-one showdown in massive multihulled boats now appears headed to Valencia, Spain, unless the bitter rivals can agree on another port that complies with the Deed of Gift.

In that case, it would have to be in the Southern Hemisphere.

Although Valencia is in the Northern Hemisphere, neither side objected earlier in the court fight to holding the best-of-three series in the Spanish port. Valencia hosted the 2007 America's Cup.

Kornreich said she ruled from the bench on Tuesday to give Alinghi's backing yacht club, Societe Nautique de Geneve, time to appeal if it chooses.

The cup is scheduled to begin on February 8.

"Your honor, you're canceling the America's Cup," said attorney Barry Ostrager, who represents SNG.

"This is sort of a cataclysmic decision that you're making," he added, warning of "colossal harm to the sport, the event, to RAK and the America's Cup."

He later softened the "canceling" remark, saying the next step was for SNG to determine whether it's possible to stage the race in February.

Alinghi has been sailing its 27-meter catamaran, Alinghi 5, in Ras al-Khaimah for more than a week.

BMW Oracle Racing's 27-meter trimaran, which will be named USA, has been undergoing testing in San Diego since last autumn.

The space age-looking craft is back in the water after undergoing extensive modifications.

David Boies, an attorney for Golden Gate Yacht Club, which backs BMW Oracle Racing, said the upheaval "doesn't have to be cataclysmic." Valencia was ready to host the race, he said.


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