That Was Then And This Is Now!
The International Jury returned a verdict in support of the protest that was submitted by Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa. In a 23-page decision, the Jury ordered that "Regatta Notice 189 has the effect of changing the Class Rule and is therefore not in accordance with Protocol Article 4.3(k). The Regatta Director (Iain Murray) is ordered to withdraw RN 189. The Measurement Committee is ordered to apply the Class Rule as it existed before the issue of RN 189."
Team manager Grant Dalton said, "Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) is pleased the jury has maintained the sanctity of the AC72 Class Rule in ruling that it can be changed only by unanimous consent of the competitors and the Regatta Director."
"I am immediately reaching out to the Coast Guard and the teams," Iain Murray said. "ETNZ and Luna Rossa are complying with both the AC72 Class Rule and the Safety Rules. Artemis Racing, who is still preparing its AC72, has previously advised that they cannot immediately comply with both. Exactly how this decision impacts Artemis Racing is something we need to look at through our discussion with the teams."
Grant Simmer, Oracle Team USA General Manager, said, "We respect the decision of the America's Cup Jury. We continue to support the Regatta Director and we believe all teams have benefited from his review. We don't have an issue complying with the Class Rule, and we will be ready to race under the rules affirmed by the Jury."
Artemis Racing is the only team to have said it cannot comply with both the Class Rule and the safety recommendations.
Dalton said, "We have proposed that when Artemis is ready to race they be given dispensation from the Class Rule regarding rudder elevators so long as they otherwise comply with the Class Rule and the safety recommendation. This would require the consent of the other competitors and we would strongly urge this be given.
"Artemis Racing is making a tremendous effort under difficult circumstances to get back on the race track and deserve support to help them achieve this," reiterated Dalton.
Simmer said, "We have this safety issue because of the speeds we are running, in part because the AC72 Class Rule never conceived that we would be foiling and sailing at such high speeds. There are a few things in the rules that make these boats inherently unstable and therefore unsafe."
Oracle Racing USA CEO Russell Coutts said, "The America's Cup Jury decision is out, basically reinstating the original Class Rule. I suspect there will be some new rudder wings on our boats pretty soon and no doubt more conspiracy theories that we must have known the rules would revert back."
Dalton said, "We didn't expect to lose. We will fully support the Regatta Director in his efforts to run a safe regatta and to this end would welcome the opportunity to meet with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Regatta Director to clarify any adjustments which may need to be made to the safety plan."
The America's Cup Event Authority (ACEA) announced that racing can proceed as scheduled if the teams adhere to the AC72 Class Rule as well as to the 37 safety rules established following the Artemis Racing capsize that resulted in the tragic death of Andrew "Bart" Simpson in May.
A decision today by the International Jury upheld protests by Emirates Team New Zealand and Italy's Luna Rossa Challenge that the Regatta Director alone could not change some of the regatta rules, even if he was acting in the best interests of all the sailors.
ACEA chief executive Stephen Barclay said, "This means racing can continue if the teams abide by the existing Class Rule and the Safety Rules. If the teams take this step, it will ensure the safety plan remains intact and the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Event Permit is unaffected."
Iain Murray said, "My focus remains squarely on the safety of all the competitors in all of the teams. I am just a single guy with 37 recommendations. I am disappointed, and will move on. We will review and resolve this."
Barclay concluded, "I thank everyone for their patience and understanding in this matter. I especially want to thank our fans, sponsors and the city of San Francisco who continue to be supportive of the 34th America's Cup."
A release put out by Artemis Racing states that they are "disappointed that the Jury's decision leaves uncertainty. Artemis Racing is here to compete and remains confident that a solution will be found allowing for a safe regatta that all can compete in.
"Our team is working hard and we are currently in the midst of completing the structural testing of our boat. This should be completed by week's end. Final assembly of the boat will take place next week with the goal of getting on the water in 10 days time. Artemis Racing has been working intensively for two months and we are eagerly looking forward to racing."
(Then) The Show Around The Rock!
It is astounding. Time is fleeting. Madness has taken hold. But listen very closely, someone has to keep control. There are so many puzzling elements to the 34th America's Cup cycle that how it is all going to end, nobody knows.
Initially, we were actually amazed and astounded that a 72-foot catamaran with a behemoth 14-story wing attached could actually fly over the water on its foils! Really, are you kidding me? It doesn't take a rocket scientist, or a mad one for that matter, to put together a formula that would add up to 50 mph on San Francisco Bay with these boats. It is wickedly fascinating.
Iain Murray said, "I think it's fair to say with this America's Cup, the geography and the natural amphitheater we have here in San Francisco, that you're probably in line to see some of the most amazing sailing and racing that's ever happened in the world. With the complexity and everything associated with it, it may never happen again. I would urge you to stay patient, stay with us and be prepared for quite a show of sailing over the coming months."
When ETNZ was sailing the course alone in the first race for the Louis Vuitton Cup, my palms were sweaty, my heart was racing and I held my breath for an hour. What is it going to be like in late August and early September when the remaining teams eventually have to put their money where their mouths have been for the last few weeks?
In response to all the conspiracy theories and controversy, Murray spoke out quite eloquently on the issues at hand. Again, for everyone unfamiliar with how the America's Cup works, it's all parts and parcel.
Murray says claims that his 37 Safety Rules are changing the game one week before the regatta are baseless.
Murray also states plainly that claims saying that the Italian and Kiwi boats would not measure as AC72s and are thus ineligible to race are false. He says the official measurers have informed him that both Luna Rossa and ETNZ are fully able to comply with the AC72 Class Rule.
"So this isn't about teams not being able to comply. This is about two teams trying to gain an advantage from changes I've implemented to make all of our racing safer," Murray said.
On the issue that seems to be most contentious to some of the teams, the requirement to have deeper rudders with larger winglets, Murray said, "This is to give crews more control. The new safety rules allow the angle of the rudder winglets to be adjusted up to five minutes before a race.
"When the Safety Review Panel met with the teams in May, all of them acknowledged that deeper rudders, with larger wings, add more control," said Murray. "Luna Rossa wiped out twice at 36 knots of speed during training because they lost control and rounded up head to wind. More surface area increases control.
"Now can you see why I'm frustrated?" Murray asked. "I was appointed Regatta Director by the challengers, and accepted in that role by the defender. I work on behalf of all the teams and I'm really saving the teams from themselves. Not one team likes all of the recommendations.
"Disappointingly, for competitive reasons, two of the teams are now protesting over some of these safety recommendations. But I don't believe you can pick and choose. These safety recommendations are a package and together they increase safety for our sailors and they are now Rules of the event."
Dean Barker, ETNZ skipper, said, "We've known we're starting racing on the seventh of July for quite some time, and we're here ready to go racing. Whether Luna Rossa decides to race or not, we'll be out there and looking forward to spending more time on the race course. It's a lot of fun out there and we're really enjoying our time here in San Francisco."
Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena said, "I want to clarify the reason for which we are not racing today. As everybody knows we have protested the introduction of new Class Rules without the unanimous agreement of the competing teams. We have been forced into this position. We did not come to San Francisco to watch races, but to race."
Stephen Barclay, the CEO of the America's Cup, said, "This isn't unexpected, but it's still disappointing. It's a case of won't race, not can't race. The people really hurt by this are the fans."
The Luna Rossa statement reads: "As already informally stated in the last few days, Luna Rossa is waiting for the International Jury decision on its protest against the measures introduced by the Regatta Director."
"What I don't understand is they sailed today (Saturday), they say they will sail if they win or lose the protest, but they just won't sail against Emirates Team New Zealand on Sunday," Barclay said.
"The Italians are a bunch of spoiled rich kids dressed in Prada gear," said Oracle Team USA's Russell Coutts. "I think it's just wrong that they should think that by threatening the event and threatening race officials that they're going to get their own way. It's just the wrong approach. They're, frankly, acting like a bunch of babies. Even my 7-year-old boy doesn't behave like this. I wouldn't accept this behavior from him. It's childish – the Italians' stance – is an affront to the fans."
Sirena said, "In regards to Iain Murray, he's one of the guys I respect the most in this 'game.' There is nothing personal with him. I have to do the best thing for my team. I feel it's unfair to change the Class Rule one week before the event. I'm happy and pleased to shake his hand."
"Unfortunately for us it is going to be a couple of weeks yet. The team is working seven days a week and on night shifts," said Artemis team sailing manager, Iain Percy. "There are lots of changes going to the boat and we're soon to start our structural testing, physical testing. In the spirit of this event there's been a lot of support for us as a team, not just your usual support for the fact that we've lost a friend. But also practical support and we appreciate that a lot, guys.
"We're looking forward to being part of the event. A couple of months ago when we had our accident, when the dust settled, we all came together as a team and decided we didn't want our challenge to end that day," spoke Percy. "We wanted to be part of the event, supportive of the Louis Vuitton Cup and our fellow teams."
Paul Cayard CEO of Artemis said in a written statement, "The first person to commend the Safety Recommendations was Dalton. He publicly congratulated Murray for his work and said you won't get any push back from ETNZ on this. Now, five weeks later I ask who is trying to force whom out of the 34th America's Cup?
"There are accusations being cast about that the recommendations are a conspiracy to promote Oracle or Artemis Racing. These are slanderous and paranoid," said Cayard. "We don't like all the Safety Recommendations. We began modifications on one set of rudders and elevators to comply. These are long lead-time projects. So now Artemis Racing has two sets of rudder elevators: one that complies in their entirety, and one that complies with the rules as they were before they were issued. We cannot comply with the third case, which ETNZ and LR are now trying to force on the competition."
Cayard continued, "The fact is that if ETNZ and LR get what they want, we will be excluded from competition. They tried to camouflage this move by saying that they were helping Artemis Racing by delaying the start of the Louis Vuitton Cup. It was quite the opposite.
"Finally, contrary to what has been said in various sailing media, there never has been a ban on elevators on rudders in the AC72 Class Rule," said Cayard. "Our priority is safety and our goal is to race!"
Over and over we have been told how all the designers, regatta officials and the Event Authority were surprised that that the newly created AC72 class catamaran could actually foil.
Oracle Team Racing skipper Jimmy Spithill said, "To speak about why people should come down, they got a bit of a taste of that during the ACWS last year. The response we had from the city and the outskirts of the city was amazing; it was overwhelming how positive it was.
"Most of the people lining the shore were non-sailors and kids, and they loved it. For us, we're excited and we're here to race. To hear others maybe second guess that is a bit strange.
"I think Emirates Team New Zealand has a good program," continued Spithill. "We were also foiling on our AC45s when they were foiling on their SL33s. I think their program is solid. At the moment, they're the strongest team in the challenger series.
"I don't think you can assume anything until the boats line up. I think it's brave to assume right now who's in better shape. If I look back to the (2010) America's Cup everyone thought Alinghi was faster, but that changed quite quickly," said Spithill. "People can talk and speculate right now, but the cool thing about sport is that at some point we'll race one of the challengers and we'll see who the fastest is."
Simmer said, "If you can be safer on the 1st of August, why the hell wouldn't you do it! It's the same rule for everyone. It's not like somebody is making a rule for just one team, so you can imagine that it is quite a heated argument!"
The safety committee was assembled by the America's Cup trustee the Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC) to institute 37 safety recommendations. A couple of them seemed more inspired by liability concerns than safety. Of which, basically only one has produced a firestorm of controversy, with accusations of subterfuge, conspiracy and hypocrisy mocking tossed about by longtime, highly respected figures of our sport with almost reckless abandon.
In simple terms, though, nothing is ever as simple as it seems. It boils down to the fact that all of the teams built and designed their AC72 catamarans to a class rule, with very specific guidelines under the protocol. One of the teams, ETNZ, found a loophole in the rule by their design team, of which at least one of the members helped write the Class Rule… hmmm; that allowed them to create a dagger board/foil that enabled their boat to be lifted out of the water at high, now lower speeds.
The innovation was vigorously opposed to and protested to, at the time by the default Challenger of Record (COR) Artemis, who by that time had already started building their boat to skim the surface, not slice through it like a switchblade through melted butter. Around the same time, give or take "secret" photos surfaced of Oracle's AC45 with an L-shaped foil which literally helps lift the boat out of the water. (Anyone who actually has figured this out, please stop me at any time!)
Then a funny thing happened. Well it happened a year before, but really, who is keeping track? While Oracle was out testing their AC45 it pitch poled after the hulls dug into the water and the new "Mr. America's Cup" and one of the best skippers of our generation, you know the Flintstone one, Russell Coutts fell through the Saran™ wrap wing sail without serious injury, producing an avalanche of "likes" on You Tube.
A new legendary moment was born, add to that all the catapults that took place at different locations around the world in the ACWS and all of sudden the "new" America's Cup had reached the spin cycle of euphoria on everyone's phone, laptop or television (another invention by our generation).
Problem was that with all the humorous moments on You Tube, a serious storm was percolating under the surface. What was going to happen with the much more powerful, much bigger cats when they hit the water?
Then the warning signs: four incidents of note happened in a short span that should have raised red flags at the time, but again no-one had gotten seriously hurt as yet.
First, Artemis cracked a new wing sail that had been attached to a trimaran in early testing. I'm no designer, but it seems that a wing built and loaded for a 72-foot cat wouldn't be a good fit for a 60-foot tri. I don't know, maybe it's just me!
Anyway, that set the team back in a huge way, not to mention they already probably knew that their first AC72 was going to be a Dodo boat before it even hit the water. Worse still, it was painted red! Bad luck in the America's Cup.
Second and the same team, Artemis had a structure failure during a load tow test, before the new wing sail was even attached. In response at the time to concerns that their AC72 program was struggling to get out of the gate, then-skipper Hutchinson responded that the team, "hasn't gone without its hiccups. We went out and we were going through certain procedures of structural testing. While we were out we made a bit of a mental mistake and broke a couple of things. We had to go back and fix them.
"We are getting issues on the new boat sorted out right now," said Hutchinson at the time. "We're exploring new territory here. In actuality, it's going to be like putting people on the moon."
Third and right after Oracle Racing USA put their new "black bat cat" on the water, they had a "foil" failure in or around the South Bay in moderate sailing conditions at the time that put the boat back in the shop for several weeks, before the team fashioned a new foil from the team's now antiquated trimaran.
Fourth, by now the writing is on the wall, not the urban graffiti that definitely catches your eye on the subway, but not exactly the fine print either. Oracle 17 went out in challenging conditions and at the end of a long day of practice attempted a risky bear-away maneuver against a strong ebb tide digging their hulls well into and under the water. The boat pitched forward in almost slow motion allowing the crew precious seconds to save themselves, before $8 million went floating out to sea destroying the wing sail in the process.
Thankfully no one was seriously hurt and maybe that was the problem to date. If someone had gotten critically injured maybe the teams and the organizers would have taken a good look in the mirror, sat down last November, to look at some safety recommendations. Again, in hindsight it is easier to look back than it is to look forward sometimes.
Which brings us to the here and now with many elements of the America's Cup races on the precipice and an astounding silly season of accusations flying back and forth between usually deadpan serious guys, who have now resorted to name calling and character attacks.
If not for the accident on May 9 that claimed the life of Andrew Simpson, most of this would be folly, but no actions or words of rhetoric can ever replace what was lost. To date, the accident remains a mystery to most, but that boat had some structural issues that possibly could have contributed to the way the incident unfolded.
So every time from here on out that one of the AC72's looks like it's going to just take off, or every time the bows dig into the water for more than a momentary moment, or anytime the boats twitch, turn or tumble, we will hold our breaths, sweaty palms and all hoping, praying that the remainder of the 34th America's Cup will be safe and sound for all the teams.
I hope to hear from you: mark@yachtsman magazine.com.