(CN) – A yacht club must hold an annual regatta on the sea before it can challenge for the America’s Cup, the New York Court of Appeals ruled.
The Cup currently belongs to Societe Nautique de Geneve (SNG), which won the Cup in 2003 and successfully defended it in 2007.
After the race ended, Club Nautico Espanol de Vela (CNEV) issued a challenge to the winners, which was accepted.
However, Golden Gate Yacht Club filed a lawsuit, contending that CNEV, which formed days prior to the challenge, did not qualify as a challenger because it did not hold an annual regatta. Golden Gate issued its own challenge, which SNG rejected because CNEV was the first challenger.
In its lawsuit, Golden Gate alleged that SNG breached the “deed of gift” that governs the Cup. The trial court ruled in favor of Golden Gate, but the appellate division reversed the decision, claiming that the deed’s language is ambiguous.
The tide turned again when Judge Ciparik reversed the appellate court by ruling in favor of Golden Gate that the phrase “having for its annual regatta” in the deed was not ambiguous.
“By using the word ‘annual,’ the settler suggested an event that has already occurred at least once and will occur regularly in the future,” Ciparik ruled. “Any other interpretation would render the annual regatta clause a nullity.”
The judge said SNG should start planning to defend the Cup against Golden Gate.
“It has been posited that the right to act as the Trustee of the America’s Cup should be decided on the water, not in a courtroom.” Ciparik wrote. “It falls now to SNG and Golden Gate to work together to maintain this noble sailing tradition.”
The Cup is named after the America, which won the first Royal Yacht Squadron Cup in 1851. The New York Yacht Club enjoyed the longest winning streak in sports history by holding onto the Cup until 1983.
The Swiss yacht Alinghi won the Cup easily in 2003 for SNG, which defeated a New Zealand club to retain the Cup in 2007.
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