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America’s Cup and ISAF reach agreement just ahead of ACWS Portsmouth

by Richard Gladwell, on 25 Jul 2015
35th America’s Cup Youth programs receive a boost Chris Burville/ACEA
The International Sailing Federation and the America's Cup Events Authority have kissed and made up just before the start of the America's Cup World Series Portsmouth.

The ISAF have announced that they have sanctioned the America's Cup Regattas and in lieu of a fee that there will be two youth sailing programs established in Bermuda and internationally.

The scope of the international program is yet to be announced but the announcement says the beneficiary will be the ISAF’s international youth sailing charity the World Youth Sailing Trust.

The last America's Cup was notable for a massive split between the world body and the parties associated with the America's Cup Defender, where the ISAF appointed International Jury made several adverse findings against the Defender for breach or reconnaissance rules, and the much publicized boat and measurement tampering incidents which resulted in several members of Oracle Team USA being suspended, the team fined $250,000 and one of the suspensions being the subject of an acrimonious hearing in the Court for Arbitration in Sport. The decision of the five person International Jury was upheld by CAS, although there was some comment on the process used.

Just over a year ago America's Cup Events Authority CEO, Russell Coutts commented on his Facebook page:

'The ISAF jury appeared to be on a crusade to 'save the America’s Cup' and I believe they may have allowed that belief to cloud their judgment.

'In fact, it is interesting to note that around the same time, the President of ISAF was actively discussing moves to try to grab more control over the event.'

'There are many very good people in ISAF that have worked hard and given up a lot to further the interests of the sport. However, the current administration with their politically charged agenda is doing our sport a huge disservice in my view.'

Ironically it was some of the members of the same Jury that found in favour of Oracle Team USA when they were appointed as an Expert Panel by the New York Supreme Court towards the end of then Oracle Racing's case against Alinghi/SNG.

Coutts was also very critical of the payment that ISAF required from the America's Cup as a sanctioning fee.

Now, just over a year later, on the surface all appears to be sweetness and light between the two bodies.

ACEA has got away without paying significant amounts of money to the world body. It has also avoided the prospect of running an unsanctioned event, which could have had significant penalties against clubs and sailors - had the ISAF chosen to flex its largely dormant legal muscle.

For its part, the ISAF does not have to face up to a break out by a major event and risk further criticism for enforcing its regulations.

It is not known how the International Jury function will operate. In its regulations ISAF still has the power to appoint the Jury. The organisers have circumvented this by writing a Protocol that uses an Arbitration Panel, a Jury, if it is required to adjudicate on sailing rule matters will be formed from the umpiring team. matters pertaining to Protocol breaches will be heard by the Arbitration Panel. It is unclear who will handle interpretations to the Class Rule, and the dispute process arising from these.

In one notable case in the 34th America's Cup Oracle Team USA and the Challenger of Record, Artemis Racing both supported the interpretation of the Measurer that foiling was illegal. The International Jury found that he had exceeded his authority and ruled in favour of Emirates team NZ and Luna Rossa that foiling was indeed legal. Whether an Arbitration Panel would have the technical experience to be able to make this type of decision remains to be seen.

As the international governing body for the sport of sailing, ISAF will continue to sanction the America’s Cup and its constituent events, comprising the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series, the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers, the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs and the America’s Cup Match presented by Louis Vuitton. ISAF will administer an anti-doping program as well as approving the race officers, the umpires and the racing rules.

ISAF CEO Peter Sowrey said, “ISAF is pleased to continue its association with this great event, and as always we will look forward to watching the teams battle to win the oldest trophy in international sport.

'A real positive to come out of our relationship is the shared desire to invest the sanction fee into something that both ISAF and the America’s Cup believe strongly in: the next generation.”

The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Portsmouth is the first event of the 35th America’s Cup. Racing begins this weekend.
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