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America's Cup: Review Recommendations not all sweeetness and light


'The Rudder Elevator rule change will affect any team who has not previously fitted the devices sought to be made legal by a new Safety Rule.'    Chris Cameron/ETNZ©    Click Here to view large photo

Emirates Team New Zealand’s rules advisor Russell Green blogs about moving goal posts and the negotiations ahead, on the back of 37 Recommendations pulled together by Review Committee Chairman, Iain Murray following the fatal incident involving Artemis Racing's AC72 on her final sail.

Last Wednesday was my first day working in San Francisco and we were called to a meeting late in the afternoon by regatta director, Iain Murray, who presented his recommendations from the work of the Review Committee. Present were the key members of the teams, the event authority and Louis Vuitton.

Emirates Team New Zealand’s Rules Advisor, Russell Green -  Chris Cameron-ETNZ©   Click Here to view large photo
Iain Murray, who distributed the report and then worked through the document explaining all the relevant points, looked tired. It was clear there had been some long hours worked by Review Committee in the previous six days, an amazing job in such a short time.

The teams, especially Artemis, had various questions but there was little time to digest the information as former Oracle Racing COO Stephen Barclay, who now heads the Event Authority (ACEA), revealed the document had already been made public. It was straight back to the base for Grant Dalton to talk to the team about the content and how we would deal with the upcoming work which, inevitably, be required.

It is daunting to arrive at the venue after years of planning to find the 'goalposts moving' so late in the campaign, long after design decisions have been made based on the anticipated windy conditions in San Francisco.

Yet another challenge for the team. I cannot help wondering how the All Blacks would feel arriving at the World Cup in UK in 2015 to find that there were last minute proposals to change basic rules of the game in the name of player’s safety but which in effect favoured the slower stop/start style of the Northern Hemisphere teams?

The recommendations are general, the task now facing the event and the teams is for these general recommendations to be converted in to specific rules of the event, a process which needs to be dealt with quickly so the US Coastguard can be satisfied on safety and issue it’s event permit.

Many will require discussion amongst the teams and ACRM, responsible for the race management. Currently there is a high degree of goodwill and co-operation in the interests of ensuring safety but there will inevitably be differences during the process, as the teams all have different competitive strengths which they wish to protect.

The most contentious issues for ETNZ are the reduction in the wind limits and the prospect of flexible starting times.

The recommended reduction of the upper wind limits is more than we would have liked, but we always knew the 33 knot upper limit was not practical. It has been explained to us that the flexible starting time regime, intended for use in the windier conditions in the LVC, would involve the starting time only being brought forward when ACRM was sure that the wind speed would be over the upper limit at the scheduled start time.

This will clearly need the input and cooperation of the teams and we have made a proposal how this could work.

Modifications will be required to the various rule documents which govern the event. Changes to the Protocol and the Racing Rules require agreement from the majority of the teams, changes to the Class Rule requires the unanimous consent of the teams as does a document called the Newport Agreement which stipulates the format, schedule and start times of racing.

Thursday was a day of digestion and analysis ashore while our AC72 went for a sail and the external rule change process started on Friday with a three-hour meeting involving the four team’s rules advisors and ACRM.

Agreement was reached on which rule document would need to be modified to accommodate each recommendation and the next steps required.

Next there will be a series of meetings early in the coming week. I will join Jeremy Lomas and Chris Salthouse at a meeting on crew safety equipment, structural engineer Gio Belgrano at a meeting on structural issues, and Dean Barker at a skippers’ meeting to consider changes to the racing rules in the start area.

There will also be a need to work with technical director Nick Holroyd and his design team on the negotiations on the draft Class Rule changes which we are expecting from the Chief Measurer, Nick Nicholson.

A busy week coming up, but in the meantime the sailing will go on…

Oracle Team USA17 shows off the controversial Rudder Elevators which have been embraced by the Recommendations produced by the Regatta Director -  Guilain Grenier-Oracle Racing©   Click Here to view large photo


Sail-World: Interestingly the one of the Recommendations relating to the new AC72 Class Rule covering Rudder Elevators was specifically disallowed by the Measurement Committee when it issued a Public Interpretation in August 2012.

(Public Interpretations are issued by the Measurement Committee in response to a question from one of the teams, and are a way of avoiding lengthy protest hearings during the regatta, when one or more boats turns up with a design 'innovation' which is immediately protested and ruled in or out by the International Jury.)

Reversing that Interpretation the Recommendation 1.3e from the Chairman of the Review Committee allowed Rudder Elevators to be 'permitted to be adjusted until warning signal'.

The Public Interpretation 19 said very clearly that if the Rudder Elevator was adjusted between races, then the boat's Measurement Certificate was invalidated, meaning that it would not be allowed to race until the situation was rectified, and the boat was bought back into compliance with her certificate. Normally this would require the change to be sighted by a Measurer.

The purpose of the Review Committee Chairman's Recommendation is unclear, and even less clear is why the Public Interpretation - which all competitors are expected to rely on when developing their designs and sailing techniques, was over-ruled, clearly advantaging any boat that had already installed and tested the elevator devices.

Quite how a Class Rule change of this type is a Safety Rule, and something in which the US Coast Guard should be interested in the context of a safety Plan for the America's Cup Regatta, is also an interesting matter.

The full Public Interpretation can be read by clicking here


by Russell Green and Sail-World

  

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10:12 AM Mon 27 May 2013GMT


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