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Hold those giant catamarans just a minute, you bickering billionaires.

The America's Cup appears to be headed away from a rare one-on-one showdown between American and Swiss crews and back to its traditional multichallenger format following a ruling by a New York appeals court Tuesday that went against a San Francisco yacht club that backs Silicon Valley maverick Larry Ellison.

In the latest 180-degree turn in a yearlong court fight, the New York Supreme Court's Appellate Division ruled 3-2 that Spain's Club Nautico Espanol de Vela should be the Challenger of Record, giving it the right to negotiate terms of the next competition with the current America's Cup holder, Alinghi of Switzerland.

The decision, based on what the court said was "ambiguous" language in the Deed of Gift, the century-old document that governs the America's Cup, reversed a lower-court ruling that made the Golden Gate Yacht Club the Challenger of Record.

Although Golden Gate Yacht Club can file a last-chance appeal to the New York State Court of Appeals in Albany, Tuesday's ruling leads the way for a return to the traditional format in which the winner of a challenger elimination series races the defending champion for the oldest trophy in international sports.

BMW Oracle Racing, backed by the GGYC, and Alinghi have been preparing for an expected one-on-one match in 90-foot multihull boats, the result of a lower-court ruling that GGYC was the Challenger of Record.

GGYC said it will consider the implications of Tuesday's ruling before deciding its next step.


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