Alinghi 5 arrived in Ras al Khaimah on October 1st and had scarcely been unloaded from the Rickmers Singapore when GGYC went to court yet again; this time claiming that RAK was an illegitimate and unsafe venue.
The Memorandum of Law, filed by David Boies of Boies, Schiller and Flexner LLP, claims that "as a venue for the America's Cup, Ras al Khaimah presents grave safety concerns for the team members of an American challenger, named USA. It uses material from the US State Department to support this:
The United States Department of State advises that Americans visiting Ras al-Khaimah "should exercise a high level of security awareness", warning that "current information suggest that al-Qa'ida and affiliated organization continue to plan attacks against Western targets; these attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics including suicide operations, assass ination, kidnapping, hijacking and bombing".
It is true that the State Department gives that advice, not specifically for Ras al Khaimah, but for the entire UAE. What BMW Oracle fails to mention is that it gives the same advice to visitors to a host of countries inside and outside the Middle East. Its latest advice to worldwide travellers was updated in a Worldwide Caution issued on July 29, 2009 and said:
“American citizens are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness. The Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations, and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas. Americans are reminded that demonstrations and rioting can occur with little or no warning. Current information suggests that al-Qaida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in multiple regions, including Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics including suicide operations, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings, and bombings.”
Indeed, the US State Department’s warnings for some tourist destinations are so lurid that it is surprising any US citizen contemplates holidaying abroad; take Greece, for example, where the department: “remains deeply concerned about the heightened threat of terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and interests abroad.”, because “Greece’s long coastline and many islands heighten the possibility that foreign-based terrorists might try to exploit Greece’s borders.” The description goes on to cite a host of possible horrors that await the American tourist who decides on a dose of ancient history for his summer holiday: domestic terrorist organizations like Revolutionary Struggle and Sect of Revolutionaries and those with Marxist ideals are increasingly active; Molotov cocktails, small arms and rifle fire, improvised explosive devices must be watched out for. Even Greek strikes and demonstrations can lead to violent confrontations with the police, destructive vandalism and rioting in areas frequented by tourists. University campuses are refuges for anarchists and criminals and Embassy personnel and families have been "strongly urged to avoid certain parts of Athens between 9 pm and dawn."
Having read all that, we suspect the average American feel safer in the UAE?
Then there is Spain, where the State Department says “proximity to North Africa makes it vulnerable to attack from Al Qaeda terrorists in the Maghreb region” and Americans must “remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise caution.” Would be voyagers are reminded of “the deadliest terrorist attack in recent European history”, when Islamist extremists bombed four commuter trains entering Madrid, causing 191 deaths and over 1,400 injuries. The Department points out that “foreigners have been killed or injured collaterally in ETA attacks” and “the risk of ‘being in the wrong place at the wrong time’ in event of an ETA action is a concern for foreign visitors and tourists." U.S. tourists travelling to Spain are advised to remain vigilant, exercise caution, monitor local developments, and avoid demonstrations and other potentially violent situations, with “recent bombings in Burgos and Palma de Mallorca” highlighting this need.
So why is BMW Oracle keen to race in Spain, for which the State Department describes several examples of terrorist acts, yet claims to be spooked about racing in the UAE, where not a single terrorist act is mentioned, for the simple reason that there haven’t been any?
BMW Oracle has produced an affidavit from Graeme Gibbon Brooks, of Dryad Maritime Intelligence Service, who states that he gave “routing and counter piracy and terrorism advice” to Volvo Ocean Race, in 2008. When Brooks briefed the skippers – one of whom was an American, in a yacht painted like a running shoe, with a huge Puma emblazoned across its sails, he told them the threat was "less than 1%". His affidavit for BMW Oracle conjures up a lurid scenario in one's imagination; heading for the top mark is “an American owned vessel, named USA, in the center of a flotilla of logistical chase boats, media coverage boats and spectator boats.” Overhead Israeli warplanes zoom over to bomb Iran, terrorists fire missiles at the BMWO trimaran, from over the horizon comes a renegade Iraki gun boat, speeding to detain innocent American spectators, on a Sunseeker, with James Bond at the wheel. It's a very different story from that portrayed by the RAK Investment Authority, the government agency responsible for attracting economic development and promoting the emirate of Ras Al Khaimahn, which points out.
“The UAE and specifically Ras Al Khaimah is an extremely safe venue for the America’s Cup. The Emirate of Ras al Khaimah has peaceful and friendly relations with all of its neighbours. The venue and all the visitors to Ras Al Khaimah in the coming weeks and months will be received in a similar friendly, peaceful and security conscious way.”
“It is quite reasonable to state that security for the America’s Cup would be significant no matter where the event is held and in Ras Al Khaimah this event will receive the same level of importance with full cooperation from the Navy, Coast Guards and the Police services to ensure the safety and well being of all visitors to the Emirate.”
Brooks cites the case of two small British naval boats seized, by Iran at gunpoint, in 2007 as an example of the latter scenario could happen and claims “direct knowledge” of the incident. What he does not say is that the Britons were not seized 17 miles from Irani waters, the closest an America's Cup course would be, but - as an article in The Times, on April 17, 2008 confirms - "were seized because the US-led coalition designated a sea boundary for Iran's territorial waters, without telling Iranians where it was." Nor does he mention that the Ministry of Defence report, from which The Times learned that fact, also says “It was the British who apparently raised their weapons first before the Iranian gunboats came alongside.”
Which brings us to the question “Why does BMW Oracle want to fly an American flag, from the 200 foot mast of its trimaran, or anywhere else?
One talking point, during AC 32, was the fact the BMW Oracle did not fly an American flag. Back in 2007, Paul Cayard had this to say: “BMW Oracle is the only team without the flag of their country, USA, on the boat or at the base. Does that strike anyone else as strange? They say that their team is too international to have just one flag, so they have ten small flags in front of their base. But Luna Rossa is the more international team, 14 countries and 7 onboard to BMW's 4, yet the Italian flag flies proudly over the base. Spain is the same. Most of the teams here are very international. Alinghi, more American and Kiwi. Flag; Swiss. A flag is one of the most basic forms of signalling unity. It has been that way for thousands of years. It is just one sign of a strange chemistry, or lack there of, with in BMW Oracle.” So why does BMW Oracle now want to fly an American flag, in Ras al Khaimah, given that its team is just as international as it was in Valencia?
There are many reasons that suggest that BMW Oracle cannot really think that sailing in Ras al Khaimah is anymore of a security risk than sailing in Valencia, so has the game changed?
Nowhere on the World Wide Web is there a greater bastion of BMW Oracle support than the Sailing Anarchy website. The site’s AC forum is sponsored by BMW Oracle’s clothing supplier, Slam; Alan Block, who once practised as a lawyer and now calls himself its “Senior Editor”, gave an affidavit on behalf of BMWO, in another suit, at the request of Tom Ehman; some members of its forums receive private information from BMW Oracle staff, including Ehman, who is himself a member and posts from time to time. Indeed, when Block was arrested and taken into custody by the Mackinaw Police, at a yacht racing event, it was Ehman who was first to post that he had been released.
Posting as ‘MR CLEAN’, Block says “BMW Oracle had a different problem - they seemed to be looking to appease the sailing poobahs and the public for a long time, fighting the PR battle hard and pushing for mediation or arbitration until long after it became obvious that Bertarelli just wasn't interested. In my opinion, Ellison was hoping that Bertarelli's advisors would convince him that fighting Larry all the way was going to be really painful - but we all know how that turned out. So finally, they've hired the guy to do it. I've argued on the front page for more than a year - since I met Ernesto in Key West actually - that it was time for GGYC to get nasty, and frankly, I'm glad that they have.”
Is “getting nasty” what this is all about? Has BMW Oracle given up on winning AC33 either on the water, or in court? Is it now a question of if we can't have it, we'll make sure you don't? Ever since David Boies was added to the GGYC legal team, there has been speculation that the next move would be an attempt to have SNG removed as trustee of the America’s Cup. Is that the next move? Is the RAK venue suit just a prelude; something to use in such a case?