Racing over, rows go on

Bertarelli acknowledges the better team won, but the Alinghi president wants their opponents BMW Oracle to drop the lawsuit.

VALENCIA // Ernesto Bertarelli, the Alinghi president, would only consider returning to the America's Cup if BMW Oracle, who won the famous trophy off them on Sunday when they completed a 2-0 win in the best-of-three series, drop their lawsuit against them. BMW Oracle, owned by US software businessman Larry Ellison, and Alinghi are due to meet in court on February 25 to determine whether Alinghi 5 was even eligible to race as its sails were made outside Switzerland and therefore do not fall under the deed of gift that sets rules for the race.

"We did everything we could but we never went to court unless we were forced to," said Bertarelli, who accused the New York Supreme Court of favouring the American team. "They were faster, so good on them. Maybe I wouldn't have done the same thing but that's the America's Cup - it's not the European Cup so the Americans have a bit of an advantage and they take the cup back home. "This America's Cup was about speed. Congratulations to the BMW Oracle team, their boat was faster, no question."

Bertarelli's team made an error in pre-start manoeuvres - their second in the two races - incurring a penalty turn which had to be executed before they could finish. The Swiss catamaran made up good ground to lead on the first leg of the 39-nautical mile race but were then blown off the water by BMW Oracle's superior speed from there on. "You could see there was a bit of a difference between the boats and that's yacht racing," Brad Butterworth, the Alinghi tactician, said. Alinghi had flown a protest flag during the race but later decided to withdraw their complaint.

The carbon fibre and kevlar American boat hit speeds of up to 33 knots, incredibly more than four times the speed of the wind, as it surged away to lead by more than 2,100 metres. Alinghi, with Bertarelli at the helm, finished 5 mins 26 seconds behind after a miserable race. The Americans won Friday's first race with similar ease. Ellison said there would be "a level playing field" at the next America's Cup. The date and venue have not been decided yet, but Ellison said he had already received notification of a challenger of record - a main challenger with whom the holders will organise the next regatta.

Asked to comment on reports that Vincenzo Onorato, the Italian shipping magnate, had told media he would be the challenger of record, Ellison said: "Vincenzo Onorato's a close friend of ours and I've never known him to be untruthful about anything." Onorato's Mascalzone Latino team competed in the 2003 and 2007 challengers series for the America's Cup. "One thing I would like to assure everyone about the 34th America's Cup is that there will be a completely independent jury, there will be completely independent umpires, it will be an independent group that manages the next America's Cup," added Ellison.

* Agencies