MADRID, Spain -- Swiss holders Alinghi face U.S. challengers BMW Oracle Racing in Geneva on Wednesday in a bid to thrash out the date and venue of the 33rd America's Cup.
Alinghi become only the third yacht after the U.S. and New Zealand to retain the 156-year-old America's Cup.
A New York court last week backed Oracle in its legal challenge to Alinghi over the rules of the yacht race.
That decision has set the stage for a rare multihull duel between the two sides -- rather than a traditional monohull regatta -- to decide the oldest trophy in international sport.
However the syndicates are now at odds over the dates of the event, with Alinghi preferring July 2009 and the American team insisting on October 2008.
The two syndicates are meeting at Alinghi's home yacht club -- the Societe Nautique Geneve
"The most crucial point for our discussion is the date. When we have a realistic date we can start proceedings to secure a location and set the stage for the regatta," SNG vice commodore Fred Meyer said in a statement.
"As we have made clear we are not in a position to race this year because we always understood that tolling would take place during the legal proceedings.
"Furthermore, we have not started construction of our boat and will not be ready to compete this year."
If no agreement is reached, the case will go back to the New York Supreme Court, the trustee of the Deed of Gift, the 1887 document which details the event's complex rules.
The American syndicate, who will have New Zealand-born skipper Russell Coutts in Switzerland to lead their arguments, have already begun constructing a trimaran.
Alinghi claim they cannot build a competitive multihull yacht by October and have requested another year to prepare in order to adequately defend their crown for what would be their third straight title at yachting's showpiece event.
The Swiss syndicate traveled to France on Tuesday to begin training with French skipper Alain Gautier.
Gautier will teach Alinghi sailors and designers about the basic functions of trimarans, starting Wednesday at the French port city of Lorient, off the Brittany coast.
"Most of us are keel yacht sailors and have limited experience on multihulls, particularly large multihulls, so this is an important step in our learning process, to understand and to race a multihull yacht," Alinghi design team coordinator Grant Simmer said. "Alain's expertise and experience will be hugely valuable to the team."
Alinghi, backed by biotech billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli, retained the America's Cup with a 5-2 win over Team New Zealand last July.
Gautier is one of the most respected sailors in France after winning the around-the-world Vendee Globe race in 1992 and the Solitaire du Figaro in 1989.
Ellen MacArthur was a pupil of Gautier in 2002, three years before she sailed solo around the world in a trimaran with a then-record time of 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes, 33 seconds.
"I believe I can bring both sailing know-how and technical knowledge," Gautier said. "I have no doubt of the team's ability to design a fearsome machine."
Alinghi will work with the Frenchman aboard his trimaran Foncia, which has been sailing since 2002. E-mail to a friend