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America's Cup- Coast Guard permit triggers Class Rule changes

by Richard Gladwell on 29 Jun 2013
Luna Rossa training on San Francisco Bay © ACEA/ Bob Greiser

America's Cup organisers have announced that they have received a Permit for the conduct of the America's Cup Regatta, with just a week to run before the start of the event.

As signaled the Organisers have made several significant AC72 Class rule changes, several of them without the unanimous approval of all four teams, as required by the Protocol governing the conduct of the 34th America's Cup.

Organisers have used Article 16 of the America's Cup Protocol, which required compliance with local government regulations to make the changes. Whether the Event Permit process can be used to effect changes to the AC72 Class Rules without following the prescriptions of the Protocol governing the 34th America's Cup, will be tested in front of the International Jury on July 8.

The authority of the Regatta Director to make determinations on regatta safety is also expected to be tested in front of the International Jury, given that the word 'safety' does not appear anywhere in the 43 page Protocol document.

Insinuations from those in authority in the America's Cup Event are that the 37 Recommendations from the Regatta Director will be acceded to, or there will be no Event - apparently putting themselves above the reaches of the International Jury.

But the opening stanzas of the Permit consist of a standard disclaimer by the US Coast Guard, and further down requires the organisers, if there is a necessity to change a component to advise the Coast Guard and make an assessment on the overall safety of the event.

Those points aside the Permit is similar to any international standard Event or Risk Management Plan, setting out regulated areas on sea and land and the other necessaries to manage the event. The contentious Regatta Director Recommendations are not details as such, but are noted as being attached to the application on receipt..

Major changes have been made to the rules regarding rudders, with some of the old rule referring to the non-adjustability of winglets while being left intact, but new rules added talking about rudder elevators which must be attached to the bottom of the rudder, which may exceed the external beam 14metre of the boat by 400mm. The rudder elevators must be a minimum surface area.

In addition a minimum rudder depth of 2.1metres below the AC72 hull has been specified. It is not known how this affects existing yachts, and whether they will be required to build new rudders or extend their existing ones.

The contentious hull weight issue has been diverted to some extent by leaving the weights as they currently stand, but then allowing the teams to exceed these by 100kg if they can provide evidence to the Measurement Committee that the increased weight is required for structural strength.

As the addition of weight outboard affects righting moment, and therefore speed, a yacht which had managed to persuade the Measurement Committee that they needed to put in up to 50kg of additional material per side around the main beam and hull connection point would make the most gain possible. Place of additional strength further inboard would have a diminishing effect on righting moment

Other changes have been made to the class rules on providing crew anchor points and protection, which is presumed to have been agreed between the teams. No schedule has ever been released by event organisers or Mediators as to what the points of agreement, were between the teams.

Emirates Team New Zealand are expected to continue with their Application to the International Jury which will meet on Monday, after Emirates Team New Zealand race against Luna Rossa in the first real race of the 2013 Louis Vuitton Cup on July 7.

Effectively the Regatta Director has thrown a gauntlet down in front of the New Zealand and Italian teams, challenging them to accept the 37 Recommendations he devised after the Safety Review, and placing the recalcitrant teams in the position where they just have to accept his dictates, or place the event in jeopardy as it cannot operate without a US Coast Guard Permit.

If the International Jury side decide in favor of the Application by the New Zealand Team and amend or strike out the three recommendations which for the basis of their claims, it is uncertain quite where this will leave the event, as it will not have a Permit to operate, given the USCG has already issued a permit incorporating the 37 recommendations done in the grounds of safety.

There is a special event planned on July 5, yet to be announced but expected to be a parade, rather than a race of the three teams that are sailing AC72's. The Defenders are scheduled to have a racing session on July 6. The next proper race in the Louis Vuitton Cup is on July 13, when Emirates Team NZ and Luna Rossa again meet for a single hour long race.

There will be sailovers on July 9 and 11 when both Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand will have to sail the course to get the point for their match against Challenger of record, Artemis Racing, who have yet to launch their second AC72 and will not be ready to race until close to the end of the Round Robin series or start of the Semi Finals in early August.

The statement by Regatta Director Iain Murray can be read by!clicking here.

The Permit for the Event can be read by!clicking_here

The Revised AC 72 Class Rule can be Read by!clicking_here

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