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America's Cup- Int Jury upholds basis of Challenger selection

by Richard Gladwell on 7 Jul 2011
Emirates Team NZ CEO, Grant Dalton talks with TVNZ’s Martin Tasker © Richard Gladwell

Sail-World understands (subsequently confirmed) that the International Jury for the 34th America's Cup has upheld the position advanced by the Defender, Golden Gate Yacht Club, over the transition of the original Challenger of Record role to Sweden's KSSS (Kungliga Svenska Segel Sällskapet, or Royal Swedish Yacht Club).

That Club is represented by Artemis Racing, headed by Paul Cayard, a collaborator with Russell Coutts in the former World Sailing League, which advocated the establishment of a professional sailing circuit in 70ft catamarans, at a time when Coutts was disenfranchised from the 32nd America's Cup, by his former team Alinghi.

Traditionally the relationship between the Defender and Challengers, is at best arms length, and generally a lot further away than that. At its most testy was the relationship between Warren Jones in 1983 as the Royal Perth Yacht Club took on the New York Yacht Club, and was continued through the early 1990's with Ernie Taylor locking horns on behalf of the the Challengers with the San Diego Yacht Club.

At the heart of the matter in recent times is that the Challengers have owned the rights to their series, the Challenger Selection Series or Louis Vuitton Cup. How they select the Challenger is no business of the Defender, provided it is in compliance with the Deed of Gift and Protocol. Of course the Challengers also owned the TV and Media rights to their series, while the Defender owned the same rights in the America's Cup.

In 2007, Societe Nautique de Geneve, the Swiss club represented by its sailing team Alinghi, attempted to combine the rights of the Challenger and Defender by accepting a Challenge, and negotiating a Protocol, with a tame Spanish yacht club, which gave the Event organisers the ability to operate and market the two events as a single regatta package.

That is all very laudable, except that the tension prescribed in the 19th century Deed of Gift which governs the event, has worked well in the past in terms of negotiating and interpreting rules, to ensure that no side is able to jimmy the event too much in their favour. With an arms length relationship, backed by an independent Jury and Officials, that right is protected.

On paper, the current situation with the Protocol (under which everyone is bound - officials, competitors and Jury) is like a sports tournament where two of the participants agree on the rules and the rest just have to tag along.

Some believe that Golden Gate Yacht Club took a leaf out of SNG's book when it signed a Protocol with Club Nautico di Roma to set the 34th America's Cup up as a multihull competition, and with the same aggregation of Challenger and Defender rights of which GGYC was a vociferous opponent in July 2007, leading to a legal battle in the New York Supreme Court which lasted for over two years, and pulled sailing's premier event onto its knees.

In late May 2011, following the surprise resignation of Mascalzone Latino (Vicenzo Onorato) from the 34th America's Cup, followed soon after by the team's club, Club Nautico do Roma, and the instant substitution of KSSS as new Challenger of Record, Emirates Team New Zealand lodged a complaint with the International Jury.

The basis of that complaint was that Emirates Team NZ (via their club, Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron) had in fact beaten KSSS to the punch - when entries opened for the 34th America's Cup on 1 November 2010.

Later it was disclosed that the two teams had attempted to lodge their entry by email. The Entry from Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron was claimed to be a few seconds too early, and was claimed to have been lodged after KSSS.

Emirates Team NZ questioned the Jury to verify the mail server logs, and email receipt timing - a situation well removed from the ambit of George Schuyler who drafted the 19th century Deed of Gift which governs the America's Cup.

The Notice of Challenge from Kungliga Svenska Segel Sällskapet was, the first out of cyberspace, after the GGYC's clock had ticked over midnight on 1 November - and was accepted. It was also claimed that processing of the entry fee from KSSS happened more quickly than that of RNZYS, and that GGYC had accepted the first clean Challenge.

Emirates Team NZ/RNZYS took the matter to the International Jury, and won the first round. The Jury found there was indeed a case to answer, and GGYC was then required to make formal submissions on the validity of their acceptance of the Swedish club as the replacement for the Italian Challenger of Record.

Initially the Defending Club's stance was to blow the claim out of the water on the basis of a technicality, in that the complaint/protest should have been lodged earlier. That view was not sustained by the Int Jury, which went onto the second stage with a Hearing by electronic submission, rather than a formal meeting.

Many were surprised that Emirates Team NZ/RNZYS had even bothered to initiate the proceedings, given their previous comments that they regarded the role of Challenger of Record as a 'poison chalice' - in that no CoR has ever gone on to win the Match, in the modern era of the America's Cup.

Further the CoR role does involve some administrative overhead, for which Emirates Team NZ have shown no previous appetite, being unable to understand how the CoR role makes their boat go faster.

The counter to that view, is that the Challenger of Record role does carry the ability to veto any changes to the Protocol governing the America's Cup. Given the previous cosy history between Coutts and Cayard, there was a degree of unease, in the camp of the two-times winner of the America's Cup, Emirates Team NZ, over the shotgun marriage between GGYC and KSSS.

Hence the complaint - which evolved into a formal Protest.

The Jury Decision was first circulated to the Teams and was then announced publicly (after this story was initially published).

The lengthy decision can be read by!clicking_here

For the original story including Emirates Team NZ's media announcement!click_here

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