America's Cup Showdown Looming

The America's Cup is headed for a rare one-on-one showdown after a New York State Supreme Court judge sided with a U.S. yacht club Tuesday in a legal battle between billionaires.

Judge Herman J. Cahn refused to hear new arguments from two-time defending champion Alinghi of Switzerland, letting stand his November order that San Francisco's Golden Gate Yacht Club was the rightful Challenger of Record, not a Spanish club that had been chosen by the Swiss.

Golden Gate backs BMW Oracle Racing, which is headed by Silicon Valley maverick Larry Ellison.

Alinghi boss Ernesto Bertarelli said he would not appeal and plans to face BMW Oracle Racing in a best-of-three showdown for the oldest trophy in international sports. The races could be later this year, although Alinghi said it is pushing for July 2009. Alinghi will chose the venue - it could be Valencia, Spain, or some other European port - while BMW Oracle Racing will decide whether it will be sailed in catamarans or trimarans.

Alinghi had a good case for appeal, "but it's just going to drag on," Bertarelli told The Associated Press by phone from Switzerland. "At the end of the day, everybody wants to see it settled on the water. We're confident we have a strong team. We won the America's Cup twice, we can win it three times."

Alinghi's multinational crew already has been training in catamarans in Valencia.

"I didn't throw the first punch," said Bertarelli, who made a fortune off his family's biotech company. "I'm waiting to be on the water to do that."

America's Cup Management announced last year that it was postponing the next America's Cup regatta, which had been set for 2009, because of the legal skirmish.

"I'm disappointed for the other teams that won't be able to participate this time around," Bertarelli said. "On the other hand, multihull is what I started with as a competitive sailor, so I'm ready. I think it'll be different. It think it will be exciting. The boats are going to be gigantic. I think it will be fun."

Bertarelli said Ellison has been reluctant to tell Alinghi what kind of boat will be used.

"It's certainly a win for Larry Ellison because for the first time in the many years he's tried to have any success at the America's Cup, he's been able to force himself to a final," Bertarelli said. "He was eliminated once in the semis and last time in the quarterfinals, so this legal strategy paid off for him."

Representatives from BMW Oracle Racing weren't immediately available for comment.

As Challenger of Record, BMW Oracle Racing had the right to negotiate terms of a traditional America's Cup regatta with Alinghi. When that didn't happen, a one-on-one showdown, or Deed of Gift Match, was the next option.

Should Alinghi beat BMW Oracle Racing, it is "committed to getting the America's Cup back on track for a world class multi-challenge event in 2011 in Valencia, Spain," the syndicate said in a statement. "The challengers can be assured that the 34th America's Cup will be run with the same vision and commitment for a premiere multi-challenge sailing event that they supported in Valencia in 2007."

The Deed of Gift is a document from 1887 that helps govern the America's Cup.

In 1988, Dennis Conner turned back a rogue challenge from New Zealand, sailing his catamaran to a two-race victory over the Kiwis' big boat off San Diego. It was such a mismatch that it was called "The Coma Off Point Loma." A two-year court battle followed, with the Cup remaining the property of the San Diego Yacht Club.

Alinghi became the first European-backed boat to win the America's Cup, sweeping Team New Zealand in five races in 2003. It defended the Cup with a 5-2 win over the Kiwis last summer in Valencia.

While the United States dominated the first 132 years of the America's Cup, a U.S. boat hasn't won it since 1992. American boats have failed to reach the finals of the last three America's Cup regattas.

Two weeks ago, Team New Zealand sued Alinghi in two New York courts in an attempt to recoup tens of millions of euros it says it will lose because the next regatta has been postponed.

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