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Persian Gulf ruled out as site of America's Cup

The Persian Gulf is out as the site of the America's Cup, and the yachting showdown between Swiss and American crews in giant multihulls is headed to Valencia, Spain, in February.

A New York appeals court Tuesday unanimously upheld a lower court's order that Ras al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates, doesn't qualify under the 19th-century Deed of Gift to be the port for the nautical grudge match between defending champion Alinghi of Switzerland and American challenger BMW Oracle Racing.

With their choice of RAK now a two-time loser in court, including Tuesday's 4-0 ruling by the New York Supreme Court's Appellate Division, the Swiss said they will abide by the court's decision.

"Once again BMW Oracle's strategy to try to win the America's Cup in court instead of on the water has been successful," Fred Meyer, vice commodore of Alinghi's backing yacht club, Societe Nautique de Geneve, said in a statement.

"For the first time in the history of the America's Cup the defender has been stripped of its fundamental right to select the venue. Societe Nautique de Geneve accepts this decision and Alinghi is looking forward to racing for the America's Cup on the water in Valencia, Spain, in February 2010."

The Americans hailed a double court victory.

"This is a big stride forward," said Tom Ehman, a spokesman for San Francisco's Golden Gate Yacht Club, which sponsors BMW Oracle Racing. "GGYC and BMW Oracle Racing are pleased but not surprised that the Appellate Division upheld the invalidity of RAK."

The Appellate Division also upheld a lower court's ruling that rudders are excluded from measuring a boat's load-waterline. The Americans said the Swiss wanted rudders included in the measurement in an attempt to disqualify the trimaran. The rudder issue was an important technical victory for the Americans.

The rulings came a few hours after BMW Oracle Racing finished loading its 90-by-90-foot trimaran and wing sail aboard a container ship in San Diego, where the syndicate has been headquartered since September 2008.

The ship was to leave Tuesday afternoon for Valencia. The first race is scheduled for Feb. 8.

Ehman also confirmed that BMW Oracle Racing and Alinghi are discussing making it a best-of-seven showdown rather than a best-of-three series as stipulated in the Deed of Gift, which governs the America's Cup.

Alinghi's 90-foot catamaran, Alinghi 5, has been in RAK since late September. The Swiss fought desperately to save RAK as the venue because officials there committed $120 million for infrastructure to host the giant boats and their shore crews.

BMW Oracle Racing fought RAK as the port based on terms of the Deed of Gift as well as safety concerns due to its proximity to Iran.

Tuesday's ruling could be the end of a long, twisting court fight between bickering billionaires Bertarelli and his counterpart with BMW Oracle Racing, software tycoon Larry Ellison of Oracle Corp.

Once friends, the two have fought bitterly over every aspect of this America's Cup, derailing a traditional regatta involving several challengers in monohulls.

The racing is expected to be the most extreme in the 158-year history of the America's Cup. Alinghi 5 and BMW Oracle Racing's trimaran, known as BOR 90 but soon to be renamed USA, are the fastest, most powerful boats ever built for sailing's biggest regatta.

Last month, the American syndicate unveiled a wing sail that towers 190 feet above deck and is about 47 feet longer than the wing on an Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger airliner.


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