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Fri 27 Nov 2009 03:06 PM

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Alinghi again makes case for RAK as race venue

Alinghi is entitled to name the site for the next race so long as it fits within cup rules.

The defending champions of the America's Cup returned to court on Wednesday in a bid to change the venue for yachting's most prestigious race to the United Arab Emirates from a location in Spain.

Swiss team Alinghi announced earlier this month that the race would be held in Valencia, Spain in February after a court in New York disqualified the champion's preferred venue of Ras al-Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates.

But in the latest chapter in a more than two-year legal battle over terms of the 33rd race, Alinghi - which sails under the colors of Societe Nautique de Geneve and is backed by billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli - told a New York appeals panel the race should be held in February or May in Ras Al Khaimah.

"We don't think the court can strip the right to select the venue from us," Lucien Masmejan, a lawyer for Alinghi, told Reuters outside the courthouse.

The California-based challengers BMW Oracle, which sails under the colors of the Golden Gate Yacht Club and is backed by Oracle Corp Chief Executive Larry Ellison, said the team was already transporting its equipment to Valencia and that to change the venue would be "unfair."

"If the race is not held in Valencia at this point we will be severely prejudiced," said Tom Ehman, BMW Oracle spokesman.

As defending champion, Alinghi is entitled to name the site for the next race so long as it fits within cup rules.

According to the Deed of Gift - the document that established the cup's rules - races held between November and May must take place in the southern hemisphere or in Valencia.

Valencia was the only exception to that rule because it was the site of the 2007 race and both sides agreed it was an acceptable alternative.

The lower court objected to the race being held in the United Arab Emirates in February because it in the northern hemisphere and therefore did not fit within the cup's rules.

Alinghi said it wants the race to be held in Ras al-Khaimah because it has ideal sailing conditions. The team said on Wednesday the race could be rescheduled to May to fit within the cup's rules.

The court has promised an expedited ruling and both teams said they expected a decision within weeks. (Reuters)

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