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Alinghi, Oracle in 'frank' talks on America's Cup

Swiss America's Cup defenders Alinghi and US syndicate Oracle on Thursday held talks on proposals by the American team to overcome a rift over rules for the next edition of yachting's premier event.

Oracle, which said it was looking for "a fast way back to the water," said afterwards that the discussions between representatives of both teams at Societe Nautique de Geneve, Alinghi's home club in Geneva, had been "frank".

"We plan to continue discussions on a competitive America's Cup," said Oracle spokeswoman Jane Eagleson. The US team is now waiting for a written repsonse to its proposals.

The two and a half hour meeting examined proposals put forward by Oracle in a letter this week to the Swiss champions.

It proposed a traditional America's Cup regatta off the Spanish Mediterranean port of Valencia in 2011, a year later than the date envisaged by Alinghi and the 18 other registered challengers.

Oracle also proposed a joint management of the next, 33rd America's Cup in Valencia, while it is normally the defenders, in this case Alinghi, which fulfils that role, the Spanish newspaper Las Provincias de Valencia noted.

A spokesman for Alinghi, who declined to comment on the proposals before the meeting, could not be reached immediately afterwards.

However, Oracle is fundamentally seeking to implement the previous AC32 class for the yacht design along with some of the cost-cutting measures agreed by the other teams led by Alinghi when they adopted a new AC33 standard last year.

"AC32 is a proven formula that worked well and had been previously agreed by both parties. We've put that on the table as a starting point, and hope we can find a way forward together," Eagleson told AFP before the meeting started.

A New York court this month backed Oracle over Alinghi in the conclusion to their long-running legal battle over the rules of the 33rd America's Cup.

That ruling means that the two teams must hold a best-of-three duel involving huge multihull yachts in Valencia in 2010, unless they manage to overcome their dispute on the rules for a traditional event with multiple challengers.

Oracle's chief negotiator, Tom Ehman, and their skipper, Russell Coutts, did not take part in Thursday's talks.

They were represented by general counsel and Golden Gate Yacht Club board member Melinda Erkelens, designer Manolo Ruiz de Elvira -- a former Alinghi designer -- and racing rules advisor Richard Slater.

Alinghi however was represented by its skipper and chief operational official Brad Butterworth, as well as chief legal counsel Lucien Masmejan and the SNG vice commodore Fred Meyer.

Eagleson said Oracle's owner, US computer billionaire Larry Ellison, and Alinghi's Swiss boss Ernesto Bertarelli were still lined up for another meeting soon.

Ellison and Coutts are currently racing in Cagliari, Italy.

Copyright 2009 AFP American Edition
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Publication:AFP American Edition
Date:Apr 23, 2009
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