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America's Cup looks to relaunch amid credit crunch

Oct. 22, 2008, 4:30 p.m. (ET)

MADRID, Spain(AP) America's Cup holder Alinghi hopes to relaunch the 33rd edition of the sailing classic with a series of pre-regattas in 2009, followed by a cup match in 2010, before the credit crunch forces teams to abandon the event all together.

Concerned that the financial meltdown could undermine teams dependent on sponsors and in some cases government money, the holders said they are keen to get the event, which has been mired in the courts for more than a year, back on track.

“Cost containment remains a priority for everyone - all the more significant in today's economic climate - and the 33rd America's Cup should be a one-boat campaign for all teams, including the defender,” Alinghi skipper Brad Butterworth said.

“The teams are trying to become at least cash neutral. There aren't many teams that don't have either some kind of government subsidy or an individual's own money put into the their team to actually compete. And now the profit from the last edition, that's all gone.”

The defending Swiss syndicate, headed and bankrolled by billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli, reopened entries to the competition on Wednesday looking to “go back to the drawing board with the challengers to redesign a monohull yacht for the next edition.”

“The concept for discussion with entered challengers is to design a boat that is faster and more spectacular than the old (32nd edition version) but significantly cheaper than the (new version) defined in 2007 under very different economic circumstances,” Butterworth said.

The six syndicates currently signed on to race - and any other potential challengers - can participate in the process, with entries accepted until Dec. 18.

Alinghi said teams would race in 32nd edition yachts for pre-regattas at Valencia in 2009 with the new version of the yachts used for the America's Cup match series in 2010, which will also be held off the Spanish coastal city.

International sport's oldest competition has been stuck in the courts since Alinghi beat Emirates Team New Zealand in one of the most thrilling finals in the Cup's 157-year history.

Since then, efforts to organize the 33rd edition of the race have been blocked, as BMW Oracle, led by software mogul Larry Ellison, has sought to establish itself as the challenger of record.

Alinghi's yacht club, the Societe Nautique de Geneve (SNG), initially recognized Spain's Club Nautico Espanol de Vela (CNEV) as the challenger, but in March, a New York court declared its challenge invalid and declared that BMW Oracle's Golden Gate Yacht Club should be the challenger.

But after an appeal by SNG, that decision was set aside by the New York Court of Appeals, however the lawyers are still busy and the event's future is still in limbo.

“We feel that there is an opportunity to move ahead with the competition,” Butterworth said. “We want to get this competition going and get the entered challengers to participate in a constructive process.”

However, BMW Oracle said it is was sticking to the courts.

“We remain very receptive to engaging in direct discussions about the future of the America's Cup with Alinghi, and including all the other competitors, but without Alinghi's unreasonable preconditions,” BMW Oracle said in a statement.

Butterworth said he hadn't expected the American syndicate change its stance.

“Ernesto has been speaking a bit with Larry and he knew about this new initiative and was interested by it. (But) I don't expect anything from them,” Butterworth said. “They have to make their own decisions and plans, as always. Whether it suits them or not.”