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Ericsson Racing Team penalised, ask to reopen case

by Volvo Ocean Race media on 3 Oct 2008
Ericsson 3 and 4 Ericsson Racing Team ©
Ericsson 3 was today handed a scoring penalty by the International Jury for failure to comply with the Volvo Open 70 measurement rule relating to their keel.

The decision was taken after the race Organising Authority applied to the Jury for dispensation to allow Ericsson 3 to race without having been issued a measurement certificate.

Anders Lewander and his crew will be eligible to compete without that certificate but the penalty will be a one point deduction for each in-port race day, one point for each scoring waypoint and two points for each offshore leg.

The penalty will apply as long as Ericsson 3 continues to use their existing non-compliant keel. Ericsson 3’s score shall not be less than 0 points in each instance.

At issue are several cavities in the keel, which have been filled with steel rods in an effort to comply with the measurement definition of ‘solid’. Despite attempting to completely fill the cavities with a series of steel rods, some voids remain.

The total weight this represents is 0.625 kilograms. The measurers have proposed that Ericsson 3 be fitted with an equivalent corrector weight to ensure that no advantage is gained.

Reading from the written Jury decision, Bryan Willis, Chairman of the International Jury, said: 'At a meeting on 28th April, ERT proposed a solution involving freezing sections of steel rod the same diameter as the bored holes and inserting them into the cavities.

'…(But) the freezing process was not used; instead, without prior approval of the RMG, rods with diameters lesser than that the voids were inserted and welded in place. The Chief Measurer observed the modification process and advised ERT representatives that the keel was still not solid and therefore in his opinion did not comply with the Rule.

'In the latter part of August 2008, ERT accepted that it would not be possible to carry out a procedure which would completely fill the holes and satisfy the requirement of the rule.

'The Jury is satisfied that, for a period of time, it was not unreasonable for ERT to hold the opinion that it might be possible to completely fill the holes and thereby become compliant.

'However, not having received approval from the RMG for any practical procedure, there became a time at which the idea of filling the holes should have been abandoned and a new keel built.

'The Jury is of the opinion that as a general principle, it is important that all yachts in a race hold a valid Measurement Certificate. This creates a ‘level playing field’ which is of fundamental importance to the sport.'

Ericsson Racing Team (ERT) are seeking to have their case re-opened by the International Jury after Ericsson 3 were penalised for failure to comply with the Volvo Open 70 measurement rule relating to their keel.

The Nordic crew were told on Thursday they would be docked two points per leg, one per in-port race and one for every scoring gate they pass because they will be sailing with a non-compliant keel.

But at an ERT press conference following the Jury's verdict, managing director Richard Brisius said they were seeking the chance to present new evidence in an effort to have the sanction re-considered.

'We are still studying this decision by the Jury, but I would like to say that we are really surprised and shocked by this decision,' he said. 'We have asked for a re-opening of the hearing to present new evidence.

'We thought we had made it perfectly clear that we have used the best endeavours possible to comply with the rules but the Jury has decided to give us a penalty that is at a level we have never seen in this race before.'

He added: 'We have great hope that the Jury will take in our new evidence and we will have a fair and good outcome.'
Team Counsel Luis Saenz explained the team had not had the 'opportunity' to present all their evidence in the initial 'papers-only' hearing.

'We are talking about some spaces of air in the body of the keel fin equal to 625 grams,' he said. 'What the measurers have proposed is that we have a weight of 625 grams into the boat. And that is what we have to do.

'We think that the Jury needs to consider some more evidence that we didn’t have the opportunity to present in a ‘papers-only’ hearing.'

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