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America's Cup: Italians fire off protests over Spying and Venue switch

'Sitting on a competitors line and waiting for them to break the 200 metre circle is believed to be Oracle Team USA’s tactic on the Hauraki Gulf'    Chris Cameron/ETNZ©    Click Here to view large photo

It has been a busy week for rules advisers for the Italian Challenger for the 34th America's Cup, Luna Rossa.

Two protests have been lodged with the International Jury. And the Jury Chairman has responded with a terse reminder to teams about leaking Jury documents to the media

The first revolves around espionage by the America's Defender, Oracle Team USA, and would seem to be the latest round of a long Cup tradition of information gathering on competitors, during the vital final design window before the commencement of the America's Cup Regatta.

In 1983 espionage claims were rife, as the then Defender, New York Yacht Club, tried to find out details of the winged keel of Australia II. In 1992 it was taken to new heights by Bill Koch, who conducted a full espionage campaign, all perfectly within the very lax rules, and was able to develop an accurate profile of each competitor, and then designed a radical, narrow boat, which proved unbeatable in the 1992 America's Cup.

Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa practice racing in the Hauraki Gulf, and are tracked regularly by spy boats. -  Chris Cameron-ETNZ©   Click Here to view large photo
The latest incidents appear to arise from some cute wording in the 34th America's Cup Protocol, which require that unauthorised teams, are not allowed to navigate within 200 metres of another competitor. The Protocol at section 37.2 states in part The Competitors are prohibited from engaging in any of the following in an attempt to gain information about another Competitor ..... except when permitted to sail an AC45 yacht as part of an AC World Series regatta, without the prior consent of the affected Competitor, navigating a vessel within 200m of another Competitor’s yacht for the purpose of observing it;

In a novel interpretation of the word 'navigating', Oracle Team USA are believed to be stopping their RIB outside a 200 metre circle of the New Zealand and Italian AC72's but obviously on their direct sailing line, and then waiting for the competitor they are observing to sail past in close proximity, and taking images plus other performance measurement devices, well within the 200 metre circle. By being stopped, it is believed the team claim they are not 'navigating' in the context of the Protocol. Their opponents would claim that they are required to stay outside a 200 metre circle at all times.

Of itself, the issue is of no great consequence, as the teams clearly have the ability to change course and avoid the spy RIB. However the practice is disruptive to a training and speed assessment session, which can require straight runs over a set distance in various modes. Having to break or alter the direction of the run, to avoid being recorded illegally, negates the comparative value of the run, giving rise to complaints. Similarly with moving with the 200 metre circle to record crew positions during gybing and tacking manoeuvres, allows a close observance that would not otherwise be possible.

Observation is done of straight line and two boat sessions between Emirates Team NZ and Luna Rossa -  Chris Cameron-ETNZ©   Click Here to view large photo
A secondary issue seems to be the size and power of the cameras being used by the teams. Luna Rossa in their evidence say they are using a camera that is a consumer model only. And as was discovered in the 2012 Olympics where a 50 metres circle was enforced a top of the line camera with a 600-800mm lens is the minimum equipment to work even at that relatively close distance let alone from 200 metres distant. Certainly the cameras shown as being used by Oracle do not appear to be top line professional models costing $40-50,000 for a body and lens capable of working effectively 200 metres out.

A second issue is whether the spy RIB's actually have the power to keep up with AC72's which can travel at speeds of close to 45kts. Taking useful images and video from a boat travelling at that speed is very difficult, and stopping ahead of the AC72 is a much easier, if dubious, option.

The full text of the protest can be read by clicking here

Action by the Jury is expected to be minimal even if Oracle Team USA are found to have infringed. However second and subsequent offences may not be treated too lightly.

The second protest involves changes to the venues for the 2013 rounds of the America's Cup World Series, where the America's Cup Regatta Management have posted a notice, apparently without obtaining the agreement of the competitors, cancelling the Venice round of the ACWS, and substituting it with two events in USA, at an unnamed venue, at the end of May, to early June.

Previously it had been agreed between ACRM and the teams that there would be two ACWS events in Italy - Venice and Naples. Now the Venice event has been cancelled. No reason has been given for the change, but it is believed to stem from non-payment of event fees in Venice for the 2012 event.

Venice has been summarily dropped as a venue for the 2013 round of the America’s Cup World Series -  Carlo Borlenghi ©  
Under the terms of the Protocol for the 34th America's Cup, competitors are obliged to compete in the America's Cup World Series, and it is claimed that the new schedule, announced arbitrarily, and the compulsory nature of the participation will disrupt the build up of teams for the 34th America's Cup Regatta.

One option is for teams to exchange tit for tat, and refuse to compete in the new events in the America's Cup World Series. However the Jury is expected to rule on the matter before such unilateral action is taken by at least the Italians.

The Jury has gone through its first stage of a Hearing which is to issue Directions (confriming that a protest has been received) which can be read by clicking here

No Directions have been issued by the International Jury in the first case, involving the claimed intrusion, however the leaking of Jury information by the teams is a serious matter, and contrary to the Rules of Procedure imposed by the International Jury governing the America's Cup. That has prompted the International Jury to issue a riposte to the teams reminding them of their obligations. The full protest form was first posted on the US Sailing Anarchy website, without a source being stated.

Subsequent enquiries by Sail-World revealed that all Challengers for the America's Cup, including the still-born Team Korea, are receiving information relating to the America's Cup Regatta via JuryComms and this could also include teams in the America's Cup World Series only, so tracking the source of the leak may not be that easy.

The full text of the Jury Notice to all competitors on the leaking of documents can be read by clicking here


by Richard Gladwell

  

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9:08 PM Sat 1 Dec 2012GMT


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