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Before there was Ellison vs Bertarelli, there was Fay vs Conner

Published on April 26th, 2013

It was after the 32nd America’s Cup when Defender Ernesto Bertarelli’s Alinghi team and his club Société Nautique De Genève laid out the Protocol in July 2007 which found little support within the sailing community. What followed has been a legal traipse in the New York Supreme Court, with Bertarelli and an American challenge led by Larry Ellison as the main characters.

It had been 17 years since the America’s Cup had been embroiled in such a fiasco, which had pitted a New Zealand challenge against an American defender. Here is that flashback…

One of the most niggly sporting controversies New Zealand has been involved in came to an end on this day – April 26 – in 1990.

The controversy was over the clever but eventually unsuccessful America’s Cup challenge mounted by New Zealand businessman Michael Fay for the America’s Cup.

It was a Cup challenge fought more in the New York Courts, who were the guardians of the Cup’s Deed of Gift.

It was via an interpretation of the Deed of Gift which saw Fay launch a challenge to the San Diego Yacht Club for a race which was outside what had become the traditional time for challenges, and in a class of boat different to the 12-metre design which had become the most familiar class of boat.

The large single-hull yacht KZ1 was built, it now resides at the eastern entrance of the Viaduct Harbour in Auckland, but the defender’s representative Dennis Conner decided to answer the challenge in a catamaran. He took the view that the Deed of Gift didn’t specify the type of boat.

The New York Supreme Court actually awarded the Cup to New Zealand in April 1989 but then the New York Court of Appeals over-turned that decision in September 1989.

With more legal battling over the rulings, it was on April 26 1990 that the New York Court of Appeals ended the 30-month battle over the Cup by refusing jurisdiction in the case.

New Zealand would have to wait until 1995 before relieving Conner of the Cup on the water.


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