sail-world.com -- America's Cup: 'We will not participate in the slaughtering game'
America's Cup: 'We will not participate in the slaughtering game'
Fri, 17 May 2013
Patrizio Bertelli, owner of America's Cup challenger Luna Rossa, flew to San Francisco overnight in order to be present at Friday's meeting between the teams and organizers.
Leading European sailing website www.vsail.info reports that the day after Andrew Simpson's tragic death Bertelli talked to La Stampa, one of Italy's major newspapers, and warned America's Cup organizers his team would require 'assurances' and 'formal commitment' to changes in order to continue. Otherwise, he will withdraw and doesn't seem to lose his sleep over the amount of money that has already been spent in this campaign:
Fabio Pozzo: President, does anything something need to be revised in the 34th America's Cup after this terrible accident? Patrizio Bertelli: Yes, it needs to be revised. We had told organizers in every way but they didn't listen to us. To go on not listening now would be to persevere. We want specific assurances.
Fabio Pozzo: In what sense? Patrizio Bertelli: There must be a formal commitment to change several things. We must have the conditions to race.
Fabio Pozzo: Otherwise? Patrizio Bertelli: We will not participate. This will mean we will throw away money. Patience, this also happens in life. But it's a matter of respect, of history. We do not need to do the Cup after all...
Fabio Pozzo: Prior to the Artemis incident there was talk of an upper limit to race of 33 knots, close to 60 km/h. Patrizio Bertelli: In Auckland we tested the new boat at 20 knots with no problems. But 33 knots is too much. These are boats that downwind, with 20 knots of wind they sail on the water at 35-38 knots. Do you have any idea what kind of speed this is? It's like jumping with a motorcycle at 250 km/h.
The old boats, the monohulls, the old Luna Rossa would reach at most 15-18 under the same conditions. The same thing upwind: a maximum of 12 knots with the old boats, at least 25 knots in these catamarans. However, it's not as much a problem of sailing upwind, as with the transition from upwind to downwind. The problem is when you bear away (you release the mainsail that is exposed to the wind, with maximum pressure and it cannot be controlled; the risk is to capsize forward). In short, everything is multiplied to the extreme. And we will not be at this slaughtering game. I hope that organizers, Oracle, the defender, understand.
Vexed issue with Wind limits and TV The wind limits of 33kts mentioned above are for the America's Cup itself, presumably set to ensure that racing could be conducted to suit television schedules, and would run on time.
These are set in the Protocol for the America's Cup, a document signed between the Defender, Golden Gate Yacht Club and Challenger of Record, initially Club Nautico di Roma, the team of Mascalzone Latino (who have since withdrawn).
The Protocol does get amended from time to time by the teams after consultation, depending on whether a majority vote is required, or a simple majority can suffice. The current Challenger of Record is KSSS (Royal Sailing Club of Sweden), which is represented by Artemis Racing, who had their first AC72 destroyed killing a crew member, and their program in terms of launching their second, or race, AC72 is well behind that of the other Challengers and Defender.
The Protocol governs all races in the so-called America's Cup Regatta - which covers the Challenger Series, and the America's Cup Match itself.
Weird as it may seem, the Defenders can, initially at least, actually determine how the Challenger Series will be conducted. That structure can only be modified with a vote in accordance with the terms of the Protocol.
For the Louis Vuitton Cup Round Robins, the wind limit is set at 25kts, which is close to the informal international standard used be Race Officers, from Olympics down to club Optimist racing.
If winds are consistently above this level racing, in normal regattas, will usually only proceed if the Race Officer is satisfied that it is safe, there are enough rescue craft and competition is fair.
Below that threshold, racing will almost certainly proceed unless there were significant safety reasons (ie excessively large waves for the wind strength, in which case racing may be postponed until later in the day when the sea conditions have abated).
The Protocol rule in question is Rule 21. Requirement to Race:
21.1. Competitors are required to race in all regattas of the Event for which they are eligible. Unless the Race Officer considers conditions too rough, the race committee intends to start races when the approximate average true wind speed is between: (a) 5 and 33 knots for the AC World Series and the Match; (b) 5 and 28 knots for the ACCS final; and (c) 5 to 25 knots for the balance of the ACCS;
(The Match is the America's Cup trophy race itself; ACCS is the America's Cup Challenger Series (Louis Vuitton Cup)).
It is expected that the maximum limit for all three instances mentioned above will be reduced to 25 or maybe 28kts.
Fines for not racing The key words are 'Competitors are required to race' - this terminology is at complete variance with standard racing rules, which place the onus to race on the skipper or team, and they can elect to not race and forfeit the points.
In the Louis Vuitton Cup (ACCS) the points for the Qualifying Series count for little in that there are currently only three boats entered for what was supposed to be a four boat semi-final, and was subsequently amended to allow the winner of the Qualifying Round to have the option of progressing straight through to the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals.
Currently teams will be fined $100,000 for every race they elected not to sail (even if they did so for safety reasons).
This requirement will almost certainly be dropped, as the result of the various Reviews now underway. If there were a serious incident involving further injury or death the legal implications of this rule on Event organisers could be very significant.
Even with the individual teams having to make the decision to race, the fact that organisers put on a race in conditions that proved, with hindsight, to be dangerous, and contributed to the death or injury, has significant legal downside for race managers.
The trade-off for any reduction in wind limits is the possibility that TV coverage may be delayed, as has been the bane of most America's Cups with the exception of Fremantle in 1987.
For the 34th America's Cup, huge emphasis has been placed on getting free to air broadcast - meaning that it is free for the public to view, but certainly not so for the event organsiers who have had to buy broadcast time on NBC for the first two days of racing. The remaining races will be broadcast on NBC's sports channel, as well as being covered outside USA by rights holders under the traditional model.
Clearly this is a time for cool heads.
Certainly the America's Cup regatta is possible to be staged, however safe parameters need to be set, and in the case of wind limits and requirements to race, these can be expected to be altered significantly, albeit it at the expense of the Television God.
Equally the teams need to know their limits, and be able to make calls based on their ability to sail within those limits - and in the knowledge that the coming two and a half months could be a regatta of attrition, without any quick fixes for serious damage incurred along the way.
That assumes that all survive the practice period, which has now been recommended to suspended by the Review Committee for at least another week.
Emirates Team NZ to be the benchmark The real test will come when Emirates Team New Zealand, easily the most experienced of the four teams, in terms of hours spent sailing AC72's, take to the water in San Francisco and strut their stuff.
At that point we will know if the issues that surround the San Francisco venue and the racing AC72's in that location, are across all four teams, or are confined to the programs and designs adopted by Artemis Racing and Oracle Team USA.
Emirates Team New Zealand were due to start training on May 23, ironically one day after the Review Committee investigating the America's Cup safety, had recommend that all teams suspend racing for a week.
Clearly if Emirates Team New Zealand can sail in San Francisco in the same extreme conditions in which they were able to demonstrate over many months in Auckland, and are happy with racing under those conditions in San Francisco, then any changes made with them in the minority, will be on the basis of inexperience of other teams and not of safety.
The election not to race is common in high performance sailing, and was demonstrated in the JJ Giltinan Trophy in Sydney in March, when 10 of the 18ft skiffs elected not to sail in the final race because of extreme conditions.
Interestingly, it is said that in the 18ft skiff International sailed each year in August in San Francisco, the crew have only once used the #1 rigs, and that race was cancelled when the winds increased too much for the big rig.
Contrast that the the AC72's which will be sailing through the same time of year (July to September), and may well be ruing the decision made earlier, to scrap the smaller #2 wingsail for use in heavy air racing, in San Francisco.
The AC72's now only sail with the 40metre tall #1 wingsail in all winds from 5 to 33kts of wind. Whether the smaller rig would make any difference is a moot point. Certainly its elimination did save cost, and the decision to drop it was made only after teams had been sailed in strong winds with the big rigs.
For more on Luna Rossa's program and near-first sail at San Francisco click here