Challenger of Record Artemis Racing sailing earlier this year, with the Defender, Oracle Team USA.
Emirates Team NZ 's Grant Dalton claims that the Challenger of Record, Artemis Racing, used their veto as Challenger of Record, to stymie a proposal for the start of the Louis Vuitton Cup to be delayed until 19 July, and for all teams to participate in a true Round Robin at that juncture.
The move agreed between Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand would have seen the repechage style Semi-finals dropped altogether, and instead for the Round Robin to have continued into August, with the top two from the Round Robin going through to the Final, which begins in mid-August.
Instead the Swedish Challenger of Record, were able to jimmy the vote in opting not to front up in the Round Robin until 'late July', by which time the outcome of the series will most likely have been determined, if one of the two Challengers consistently beats the other. America's Cup Events Authority yesterday advised that all Challengers sailing in an race in which Artemis Racing has defaulted, will have to start and sail the course to get the point for the day.
Effectively Artemis Racing have voted against the best interests of the event, and acted for their own.
Originally the Round Robin would have consisted of seven rounds, each of three races - or a total of 21 races in the month of July. The competitors would sail against each other once in each round.
In such a tournament, where the outcome is that teams are either seeded or knocked out, there is a point (one more than half the races), where it is assured that a team will progress to either the next level, or beyond.
On the original schedule a team would have to win 11 races of the 21 sailed to be assured of progressing.
A reduced race schedule was introduced as one of 37 recommendations from the Review Committee Chairman, after crewman Andrew Simpson was killed on May 6, and Artemis had their first AC72 break up in the same incident. That cut the rounds to five, and the number of races to 15. Accordingly the new winning point is reached by the first to win eight races, and get eight points.
The way the schedule has been arranged, if Luna Rossa were to win all their races against Emirates Team NZ, and successfully sailed the course on the ones Artemis had defaulted, then they reach the winning point on July 25. If Emirates Team NZ won all her races/points on the same basis, then by virtue of the draw, they gain the winning point on July 27.
The point being that it is most likely that by the time Artemis Racing do make an appearance on the start line, the first Finalist will have already been decided, so too will the other Semi-Finalist.
Although it is not defined in the Deed of Gift, the 19th century document which governs the Americas Cup, the usual role of the Challenger of Record is to represent the wishes of the Challengers, and vote in accordance with the majority. In this situation it would appear that Artemis Racing have used their position to vote in their own best interests, and not that of the other Challengers or in the best interests of the Event.
Calls for Artemis Racing to relinquish their role as Challenger of Record are expected to become more strident over the coming days. By any reasonable standard, their current position and situation is untenable.
In any event, under the current Protocol, the Challenger of Record loses that role at the point they become eliminated from the competition, which is after four races have been sailed in the best of seven series in the Semi-Final Round. That date is August 10, 2013 - about the same time that the Finals get underway.
Under the current or ETNZ/LR proposed format, Emirates Team NZ would assume the COR mantle being next entry. If they are the first to be eliminated, Artemis Racing's stay in the competition is no longer in duration, under either format. What Artemis has done is vote for the option which maximises their work-up time on the new boat, and buys them time in a competition that they were not entitled to have.
(Mascalzone Latino was the original Challenger of Record, created the Protocol for the 34th America's Cup in conjunction with Golden Gate Yacht Club, and then resigned a few months later saying they were unable to find the finance to compete in an event they created. Their role then fell to the next Challenger - determined by a Jury Decision after it was deemed that Emirates Team NZ had jumped the entry deadline by a few seconds. Artemis Racing was held to be next valid Challenger.)
Already in this America's Cup cycle there has been one Jury Decision on the role of Challengers for the America's Cup, participating in decision making even though they were only participants in the America's Cup World Series. That was firmly that only active participants could vote. Whether Artemis Racing can class themselves as an active participant, when they are openly intending to default most of the first series is a moot point. Additionally they have to fit out a new AC72, get it through structural testing, and finish and fit a new wingsail. Even with the announcement of their intended program, there are a lot of hurdles ahead of the Swedish challenger, and their sliding sailing program doesn't have a lot time left to cope with further setbacks or delays.
The effects of the Artemis decision to default races, will mean that other Challengers will struggle to meet sponsor commitments - as the sight of a single AC72 sailing the course alone does not fit with most sponsor perceptions of what the America's Cup is about, or what was promised in their contracts with the teams.
It also has serious implications for fans who had purchased season tickets for the Summer of Sailing - now effectively reduced from 21 serious races in the first month to just four or five.
A reduction in media coverage is also expected, not just for the Round Robin, but for the event itself, with news organisations choosing to cover the regatta remotely, using network feeds, rather than putting their own people on the ground in San Francisco.
Longer term the move has serious implications for the future of the America's Cup, which under the Deed of Gift is a challenge trophy, with a Challenger lined up against a Defender. This concept has continued with the Multi-Challenger events, with the Challenger of Record co-ordinating and representing the various Challengers.
Now it would seem that the Challenger of Record can use their position to advance their own interests, over those of the rest of the Challengers.
If there is Challenger interest in the America's Cup beyond the 34th Match, it is hard to see Sponsors being attracted to an event which was always loaded in favour of the Defender. Now it also seen to be operating at the behest of a rogue Challenger, acting alone.
Few commentators would have accused the America's Cup Regatta as being 'as exciting as watching paint dry', as was oft done in the 12 Metre era.
The sight of a single AC72 sailing the course for two-thirds of the racing in the Round Robins, will no doubt give rise for further derision on an already troubled event.
At some point the Challenger of Record has to start working in the best interests of the Event. That point was before yesterday's announcement.
© This commentary is copyright to Richard Gladwell and Sail-World.com and may not be republished without permission