AC45 OR 4 - Oracle Team USA - San Francisco
The often bizarre world of the America's Cup took a new twist today with the release of two new reports form the International Jury.
In fact, only one of the reports was new - that of a clarification from the Chairman of the Measurement Committee - on some points made earlier in his report to the International Jury concerning the taking out of class of three AC45 catamarans managed by Oracle Team USA.
The situation was discovered by boatbuilders from America's Cup Management, when they were assembling and equalising the AC45's to be used for the Red Bull Youth America's Cup Series.
Initially the report from the Chief Measurer has it that three forward kingposts (supporting struts under the mast and sprit of the AC45's) were found to be overweight, and had weight added to them by Oracle Team USA.
In a report dated August 15, the Measurer stated that following a meeting on August 13, 2013, with Golden Gate Yacht Club Vice Commodore, (and long-time 'Mr Fixit') Tom Ehman; Mark Turner, in charge of the shore crew for Oracle Team USA, and Russell Coutts CEO of Oracle Team USA, that a further inspection was undertaken of the main and forward kingposts, and that while some variation from the standard weight was found, it was not as significant as previously reported.
In fact five of the six kingposts (forward and centre) were weighed, and only one forward kingpost was found to be overweight - that of Ben Ainslie Racing. And the main kingpost in Oracle-Spithill was found to similarly heavier than the class norm. A plastic bag densely packed with iron shot had been inserted in the main kingpost on Oracle Spithill.
America’s Cup World Series Naples / ACWS Naples. Italy. The J.P.Morgan BAR AC45 skippered by Ben Ainslie - one of the three boats under investigation
One boat cleared?
Oracle Team USA have lauded the latest report from the Chief Measurer, claiming that it exonerates one of their boats, and that they will apply to have Oracle-Coutts reinstated into the four events in the America's Cup World series from which they had previously formally withdrawn.
However the Measurer's new report flies in the face of a second report released by the International Jury - this one submitted by Oracle Team USA themselves and dated some ten days earlier, August 4, 2013.
In this report, which on the surface seems to be very credible and aligns with other documents previously submitted, Oracle Team USA themselves reported that the AC45 sailed by Ben Ainslie Racing had a slurry of resin and leadshot added to a kingpost - it doesn't state which one, or why, or by who.
The Oracle Team USA report also states that it 'appears both OTUSA AC45's had lead shot in a small bag that was then inserted into the king post'.
Again it doesn't say why the weight was added (it was later tested to be iron not lead), or who added it, other than to say that 'these modifications were made by the team members responsible for preparing and maintaining the BAR yacht'.
The Jury investigations are continuing, it is believed into all three AC45's.
By its own admission, Oracle Team USA have broken the rules of the America's Cup World Series, which like its name suggests, is daisy-chained into the current America's Cup Regatta.
Whether they did it in two or three boats is something of a side issue, as is the impact on performance of the changes.
The measurement impasse has created a degree of aggro between the remaining two Challengers and the Defender, which boiled over marginally yesterday at a Media Conference. Any degree of trust between the two camps has completely evaporated.
By any measure the statements made by Oracle Team USA management raise more questions than are resolved. For instance it is widely accepted that the top echelon of the team were genuinely surprised by the claims.
However that then begs the question as to how the shore crew can tamper with one of their yachts, in measurement trim, and the team management be unaware of it. Was this a regular practice - or a one-off?
And if that happens in the AC45 campaign, for four regattas, and is only picked up by a independent party by accident - then what is happening in the AC72's?
The way matters stand, the Defender will have been found to be in serious breach of the Protocol, by the International Jury, on two occasions - and the America's Cup Match hasn't even started.
Dalton Clause pointed elsewhere
Ironically the 'Weapon of Choice' of the International Jury in their pursuit of Oracle Team USA is the so-called 'Dalton Clause', or Article 60 of the Protocol - bought in to curb comments being made which organisers thought were detrimental to the Event. their target was believed to be Emirates Team NZ's Grant Dalton. Now that legal flame-thrower is pointing in a different direction.
Traditionally, the Defender has always worn the Black Hat, in the eyes of the Challengers, particularly at this time of the Cup cycle when tensions reach their zenith. For many, this latest incident goes beyond the pale. Not for what was done, but how the matter has been subsequently handled by the team, which does them no credit at all.
Having done a good job over the past few weeks to get a previously cynical San Francisco media to 'root' for the home team, they too have turned feral over the past week.
Maybe that change in heart by the local media comes off the back of having been misled by an Oracle Team USA media release, sent just ahead of the Jury Notice, where the team announced that a measurement discrepancy had been found, and then took the line that all their actions had been swift and voluntary.
They weren't - most of them were ordered by the Jury in their Decision. But then we know from previous statements from the team to the International Jury that media releases are 'marketing documents', nothing more.
The local media picked up on that line and held the Defenders to have acted honourably. No mention of the pending Jury investigation. Official documents released later in the week showed more of the gravity of the situation. Things turned ugly when the reality of the matter dawned in San Francisco.
Whether that maelstrom abates with the latest releases from the International Jury, or if the story which keeps on giving, just heads in a new direction.
The August 4 report from Oracle Team USA can be read by http://noticeboard.americascup.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/20130804-OTUSA-Jury-Report.pdf!clicking_here
The August 15 report from the Measurement Committee can be read by http://noticeboard.americascup.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/20130815-MC-Report-to-AC34-Jury-re-OTUSA-and-BAR-AC45-yachts.pdf!clicking_here