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America's Cup- New report raises more questions on measurement ruckus

by Richard Gladwell on 27 Aug 2013
Kingposts can be clearly seen in this shot of one of Oracle Team USA’s AC45’s. Guilain Grenier Oracle Team USA © http://www.oracleteamusamedia.com/

A new report released by the International Jury has revealed that there has been further tampering with the measured parts, on the two AC45 catamarans sailed and managed by America's Cup Defenders, Oracle Team USA.

To recap, what should have been a minor measurement incident has escalated into the most serious form of disciplinary Hearing in the sport.

It relates to the finding on July 26, that a builder supplied part, a kingpost, of three AC45's managed by America's Cup Defenders Oracle Team USA, had been tampered with, by having additional weight added to them.

The kingposts, also known as dolphin strikers, are struts that are located under the wingsail and sprit, through which support rigging is run and tensioned to spread structural loads in the AC45's and indeed most multihulls. The AC45's have two kingposts.

The weight discrepancy was discovered by boatbuilders working for America's Cup Regatta Management (ACRM), not members of Oracle Team USA.

The amount of additional weight added was miniscule, and it is equally hard to understand why it would be located outside of the prescribed corrector weight area, however the point is that it was a breach of the Class Rules for the AC45 - which is a one design manufacturer supplied class.

This issue should have been a relatively simple matter of the team identifying the people involved, the circumstances, and providing the Measurer with a full explanation - all within 24 hours. Had they done so, they could maybe have avoided the ignominy of withdrawing from the last four events of the America's Cup World Series, of which Oracle Team USA had won three and finished second in the other.

The issue has dragged on for four weeks, and now the investigatory phase of a Rule 69 Hearing has concluded. A substantial number of team members were interviewed by the International Jury, at a time when they should be preparing for the Defence of the America's Cup.

For a Reuters report on the issue click here

New report reveals further modifications
The latest report shows that the kingposts from both the Oracle boats are different in measurements from the standard part - now in terms of length - as well as weight.

Further, the kingposts on all other AC45's were also measured. Six of these had been repaired and all were in conformity with the ACRM standard supplied Part.

The Measurement Committee says in the latest report: 'The carbon tubes forming the primary component of the main kingpost was found on both OTUSA 4 and OTUSA 5 to be longer than every other main kingpost measured.

'Grinding the carbon in way of the connection with the upper fitting identified a C-plate spacer glued to the top of each tube that had been externally wrapped with carbon tape.

'The Measurement Committee has no record or recollection of an approval for lengthening of the spreader tube as part of a repair having ever been requested. Of the 11 main kingposts inspected, including 6 that had been visibly repaired or reinforced, only the main kingposts installed on OTUSA 4 and OTUSA 5 showed significant variation from their designed lengths of 499mm. '

The latest report from the Measurement Committee would appear to indicate a greater degree of tampering with a measured boat than had previously made public. The extent of the tampering probably removes the charitable excuse that the use of overweight kingposts were an oversight by the shore team, or people acting in isolation, without full knowledge of the consequences of their actions.

It is now also a little more difficult to understand how those higher up the food chain in the team, could have been unaware of these changes.

Oracle Team USA will have the opportunity to respond to all allegations in a formal Hearing to be held later this week, called by the International Jury, following a period of investigation by the same Jury.

There are other variances on the internal dimensions of the kingposts removed from the Oracle Team USA AC45’s , which have been noted in the Measurement Committee report, and which will also require explanation by the team.

The initial alterations were admitted by the team, after an internal investigation, and one sailor and three members of the shore crew were identified by the team as being involved. However these latest changes were not included in the initial reports released by the Measurement Committee.

Submissions invited
Ahead of the Hearing this week, Parties to the Protocol, (being competing teams and organising authorities) other competing teams have been invited by the International Jury to make submissions on the situation.

The America's Cup Events Authority has also been asked to make a submission on the impact on the reputation of the America's Cup, and the sport of sailing, by the actions which have been admitted by Oracle Team USA.

In Jury Notice 112 paragraph 8 it was directed: ACEA is required to provide a written submission by 12h00 PDT on 28th August 2013 as to what they consider is the effect of the conduct or activity referred to with reference to Protocol Article 60.1 on ‘the best interests of the America’s Cup, or the sport of sailing’ (in particular the words referred to in paragraph 3(i) of Jury Notice JN102). The purpose of this requirement is to provide to Parties prior to the hearing an opportunity to consider such views.

From JN102 paragraph 3i whether OTUSA has engaged in ‘conduct or any activity ... on or off the water, that is prejudicial or detrimental to or against the welfare or the best interests of the America’s Cup, or the sport of sailing, or that may impair public confidence in the honest and orderly conduct of the America’s Cup, any Event, or in the integrity and good character of any Competitor, Official, selected venue, sponsor or other commercial partner of the America’s Cup’;

Clearly with the actions being widely labelled as 'cheating' by many in the sailing and general media it will be difficult for any authority to argue that damage done to the event is minimal. But ultimately it falls to the International Jury to make this assessment.

The calling of submissions from other Parties plus the fact that a further Hearing is scheduled indicates the judicial process is moving from that of investigation (apart from receiving comment on the latest Measurement Committee Report), and is moving into the final phase where those who are believed to be involved are identified, and the penalties, if any, are determined.

All parties are prohibited under the Jury Rules of Procedure from making public or media comment on the situation.

There is no Appeal from the Decisions of the International Jury. However if action is taken under Rule 69 if the ISAF rules, as report is made to the World Body which then considers whether a world wide ban is appropriate. The most severe penalty to be handed down in a Measurement case was 10 years to the owner of a boat, which had illegal ballasting systems.

The full report, including photos, can be read by http://noticeboard.americascup.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/KingpostReport240813.pdf!clicking_here

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