Peyron shares Alinghi duties

Switzerland's Ernesto Bertarelli, the boss of America's Cup defenders Alinghi, says he will share helming duties with France's Loick Peyron when the 33rd match gets underway here tomorrow.

The 44-year-old said it would be an "honour" to share steering duties with Peyron, one of the world's most successful multi-hull sailors, and he challenged the boss of Alginhi's rival Oracle, Larry Ellison, to helm his entry in the race, which is sometimes dubbed sailing's 'Formula One'.

"Does he want to come and helm his boat to find out who is best," he said.

Bertarelli said it would be very "valuable" to have Peyron, who joined Alinghi last July and who has been a key part of their training programme, at the helm.

"He is faster than me in some conditions, in others I manage," he said. Oracle's USA, a giant three-hulled trimaran, will be trying to unseat Swiss defender Alinghi's Alinghi 5, an equally large two-hulled catamaran in the best-of-three competition.

Bertarelli and Ellison, two of the world's richest men, have been embroiled in a legal battle over the rules of the next America's Cup since Alinghi, with Bertarelli among the crew, won the last edition, in Valencia in July 2007.

The Supreme Court of the State of New York ruled in April that the Cup should be settled by a one-on-one multi-hull duel between the two sides in February instead of the traditional fully-fledged regatta involving several teams.

But Oracle in December launched a new legal challenge against Alinghi that accused the Swiss syndicate of infringing nationality rules by allegedly using US-made sails for its catamaran.

The New York court is due to consider that case on February 25. That allows the contest in Valencia to go ahead tomorrow. But it also means that an Alinghi victory could be overturned by the courts.

Bertarelli said the result of the races on the water would be final for the Swiss team.

"As far as I am concerned whatever happens on the water is the final decision" he said.

For his part, Ellison acknowledged that tensions between the two sides remained high after their lengthy legal wrangling. "It's like a heavyweight title championship match where the fighters don't like each other too much," he said.

Australia's James Spithill will steer Oracle, which will be led by New Zealander Russell Coutts, who has won the America's Cup as skipper three times – the last time with Alinghi in 2003.

 

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