Ernesto Bertarelli, owner of America’s Cup defender Alinghi, talked to the French newspaper Le Figaro last week, when he was racing in the Voiles de Saint-Tropez on Numbers. The interview was published today and we provide the English translation for our non-French speakers.
Le Figaro: How did your meeting with Larry Ellison go?
Ernesto Bertarelli: In my opinion very well. We share the same passion for sailing and our points of view are not very distanced. But as we say “the devil is in the detail”. Between two visions that are quite close, interpretation can some times be a little bit different. But I’m still hopeful we’ll get along. We talked about what could be done and we’ll keep discussing. And not only with Larry. I was this weekend in Saint-Tropez to listen to all those interested in the America’s Cup and try to see whether a compromise is possible.
Le Figaro: BMW Oracle has offered to withdraw their legal action if we went back to a traditional Cup on the same basis as the last edition…
Ernesto Bertarelli: It doesn’t make any sense playing the same tune over and over. Everybody wants the next Cup to be raced with one boat per team in order to avoid spending staggering sums. We have to find a solution that will allow us to race with budgets within reach of more teams.
Le Figaro: The ideal Cup for you ?
Ernesto Bertarelli: It’s thus a cheaper Cup, multi challenger, and a Cup that generates the maximum interest among the public, sponsors and the media.
Le Figaro: What do the Americans want?
Ernesto Bertarelli: Very honestly, I’m perplexed. When negotiations were interrupted last year, I thought I had made a very important step towards the direction of the challengers, in particular BMW Oracle, with the 13 versions and rectifications of the protocol (rules). We gave them the liberty to choose the new boat rule and we agreed upon the format that everybody accepted, except the Americans. They were asking us not to participate in the challenger races. By definition, with only one boat this would exclude for us any possibility of training and development. It’s as if we were catapulted to the Roland-Garros final without even hitting one ball against anyone in training and without playing a single match.
Le Figaro: The Deed of Gift (founding document that sets the fundamental rules of the Cup) gives the defender a certain advantage…
Ernesto Bertarelli: Absolutely, but it’s not me who wrote it. It’s as if Rafael Nadal, after winning in Wimbledon, said “from now on we will only play on clay”. This document gives the winner the possibility to choose the site and rules of the regatta. It has been like that for 150 years. Nevertheless, I try to introduce some equity. And it’s essential, in the current financial context to reduce costs, if we want the Cup to exist beyond a few billionaires. It’s my principal objective.
Le Figaro: Do the Americans agree?
Ernesto Bertarelli: In principle yes. In fact, I’m waiting for them to stop their legal action.
Le Figaro: The have just filed their appeal papers…
Ernesto Bertarelli: I don’t see what it will bring them, if only a victory that would guarantee a multihull duel against us. This is the reason we continue building ours. And we are far from finishing it. I had a positive meeting with Larry Ellison, we have the impression we are getting along marvellously and agree on practically everything. But then, during execution, I have the impression we are lost on translation. Tom Ehman’s press release (spokesman of Golden Gate Yacht club) issued afterwards was not clear. And then Russell Coutts (Alinghi’s former skipper during their first victory in 2003) hasn’t helped the discussion so far.
Le Figaro: All that is a great waste..
Ernesto Bertarelli: Yes. The day after our victory, people rushed to criticize us, while the success of our management was shown by the success of the 32nd edition in Valencia. I do nothing but try hard to reproduce that success. We proposed a Cup with one boat in 2009 in order to secure sponsors. A year later, due to the legal actions, we haven’t advanced…
Le Figaro: Is there anything you regret?
Ernesto Bertarelli: Yes. We committed a fundamental error: we should have let a few weeks pass after the end of a really incredible 32nd America’s Cup, let pressure subside, before putting the documents on the table without explaining them. The communication of our vision was very bad. And we paid the price. But a year later, we realize our vision was probably a good one. I’m confident and it’s my duty to do all I can in order to find an equitable deal. But we also need good will from the other side as well.
Le Figaro: Will you participate in the event organized by Louis Vuitton and the New Zealanders in Auckland ?
Ernesto Bertarelli: There again, I’m perplexed. Team New Zealand proposes us to participate yet at the same time they are engaged in a legal action against us. Louis Vuitton says «the Cup, we are not interested anymore» and then sponsors that event… We would like to go but that could create antecedents with potential sponsors of the next Cup.
Le Figaro: When do you think the next Cup will take place ?
Ernesto Bertarelli: I think you have to count on 2010. With Valencia on the first row. The infrastructure is already available. We already have enough problems and we don’t need to add more. You don’t organize an America’s Cup by snapping your fingers.