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America's Cup Replay - Umpire errors on Day 3

by Richard Gladwell 30 May 2018 01:22 PDT 30 May 2018
Artemis Racing and Emirates Team NZ - Race 14 - Round Robin 1, Day 3 - 35th America's Cup - Bermuda May 28, 2017 © Richard Gladwell

Today, May 29 (Atlantic Daylight Time) marks the third day of racing in the 35th America's Cup in Bermuda. To commemorate the win by Emirates Team New Zealand, Sail-World is re-running the daily content, from a variety of sources, unaltered. Emirates Team New Zealand are producing their own daily video clip, which forms part of our coverage. Sadly, 12 months later all video and still coverage from the official website, America's Cup Youtube channel and image library remain inaccessible to America's Cup fans.

Today was a signal moment in America's Cup history.

For the first time in 166 years, an official voluntarily admitted making a mistake!

Chief Umpire Richard Slater made the historic admission a couple of hours after racing had concluded, that with the benefit of hindsight and additional material they would have made a different decision in the final mark rounding of Race 14 involving Swedish Challenger Artemis Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand.

For the past couple of mornings Slater and his boss, Race Director Iain Murray (both Australians) have run through various issues with the media that can make an effort to attend.

The move to the AC50 and its predecessor the AC72 sparked the shift to a new more automated and computer-based umpiring system developed by sailing and sports tracking guru Stan Honey.

That would take over the primary umpiring load from on the water umpires following the competitors in RIBS and make calls in response to competitors waving flags or making arm signals at the umpires - a system similar to the way players Appeal to the Umpires in Cricket.

In other words, unless someone asks the question of the Umpire, generally speaking, there is no ruling - unlike refereed sports.

The decision was made at the 34th America's Cup to shift to a computer based adjudication system based on the GPS position of boats and marks, which allowed start lines to be defined and boundary lines were also added around the perimeter of the course.

It is called Liveline and uses the same race data that is used on TV broadcasts, but uses a specially developed application and views for race adjudication.

Few would argue that a Mk 1 human eyeball can definitively determine when two boats closing at speeds of 80kts had crossed a virtual three boat length circle drawn around marks, who was first in, when they exited and whether they manoeuvred in accordance with the racing rules during a mark rounding or indeed any other time when the boats were close, and Part 2 of the racing rules came into play.

The GPS-based system might not be perfect, but it is the system and right or wrong that is what the competitors and officials have to live by. Decisions have to be made in a split second by competitors; the officials have maybe a few seconds to make their call.

With the Liveline system there are three umpires sitting in a booth ashore - known as the booth umpires, and two more following in a RIB - as much as you can indeed follow an AC50 in a RIB.

The primary decision is taken by the booth umpires who call the race the same as they did on the old on the water system.

In other words, two umpires take a boat each and mimic the call the tacticians would make between them. The process allows them to start raising potential rule issues before they occur, and if the other disagrees they keep the call running until something happens - a give way boat may keep clear - or there may be an incident. In which case the umpires have pretty well already had the discussion and can do a quick review and then work as a team to make the decision.

In the America's Cup system if there is any doubt or feeling there could be an error, then the on the water umpires are consulted, and their view quickly contained. They may have seen something that the computer has not.

The point is that two groups working independently can make a decision and five umpires are involved.

Under the manual system, there was a similar number working from two umpire boats.

The other feature of the Liveline GPS-based system is its accuracy with each position being reported ten times a second to an accuracy of two centimetres. According to Race Director Iain Murray, the record for a boat being called over is just 4cms on the wrong side of the start line at the start of a race.

Emirates Team New Zealand got called over by 7cms during Round Robin 1. The teams live and die by the thickness of a line on a computer screen.

The point being that the system and its claimed accuracy works both ways. But Liveline is really the only way that an event of this type involving these very fast wingsailed catamarans can be run.

It follows that if errors are made - which seems highly unlikely - then like other sports that use video replays for close-call adjudication - that the decision stands whether right or subsequently proved wrong.

Perhaps the only surprising thing about the Chief Umpire's admission is that an announcement was actually made.

Even if there had been an error or fault or misheard communication uncovered in the Umpires Debrief - so what? It is no different from a team debrief after a sailing session when things are discussed, issues raised and improvements made.

The fact that the Chief Umpire felt that he could make an announcement also speaks volumes for the transparency of the adjudication at the event, and that goes a very, very long way to remove any suggestion that the regatta management processes are what they are claimed to be 100% independent and above board.

And in case anyone thinks that should be just the way things should be - remember we are talking about the America's Cup where books have been written about dodgy dealings, and indeed the very words 'like the America's Cup' has become a byline in common parlance for something dodgy and underhand.

Richard Slater didn't have to make the statement he did today - in the past 166 years nothing would have been said by those in the know and the whole deal covered up.

This was indeed a historic, and welcome moment, in America's Cup history.

Emirates Team New Zealand makes the Play-off cut

On the racecourse, three races were sailed, today to bring Round Robin 1 to an end.

The first between Groupama Team France and Land Rover BAR (GBR) continued the redemption of Franck Cammas and his crew. A come from behind win gave Groupama their second win of the series and in fact the second on the trot - after they had a surprise win over Artemis Racing in Race 7 on Sunday, when the Swedes allegedly had their All Purpose daggerboards on and were caught when the breeze lightened a few knots before the start.

The Brits led off the start and first downwind leg, lost almost all their margin on the next beat, were passed by the French on the first run, but were still well in contact at the turn. Land Rover BAR dropped a massive 52 seconds on the next beat and that was the finishing margin.

Having won just a single race in Round Robin 1 - the first they sailed on Day 1 - skipper Ben Ainslie admitted at the post-race media conference that the British boat had an upwind speed problem.

Although he firmly denies any ongoing issues from their collision with Softbank Team Japan, the British seemed to lose their mojo after the near sinking as they returned to the dock

With just one Round Robin series left, and the rise of Groupama Team France, the question will be whether the Brits can put enough wins on the board, plus their two bonus points from an outstanding win in the America's Cup World Series to stay in for the America's Cup past Saturday, when the first team gets cut.

At this stage it would seem that four points would be the minimum to stay in the game - the Brits currently have three (one win and two bonus points), the French have two - from two wins. Artemis Racing and Softbank Team Japan both have two points, but don't have the inconsistency of the Brits and French. It would be a major surprise if they did not win two or three more races of those they have available.

The French also have two points and the race for the bottom of the table would appear to be between them and the Brits.

Ben Ainslie will be hoping that a change in weather lighter airs could give him the point he needs.

Oracle Team USA have five points and Emirates Team New Zealand have the four - apparently sufficient to make the cut for the Play-offs - even is they lost every race of the second Round Robin.

A forecast of lighter winds later in the week may well be the deciding factor, if the Challengers get onto their high lift, light air daggerboards.

Emirates Team New Zealand and Artemis Racing had a ding-dong match in Race 14 with nine lead changes, as the two rival 49er helms renewed their acquaintance in the AC50's.

Performance and SWAT Analysis for Series

The only conclusion that can really be drawn is that the much vaunted Emirates Team New Zealand, in the moderate winds at least doesn't really have a speed advantage. She is as fast as the other top three (being Artemis, Japan and Oracle Team USA). She is consistent in her top end speed. Emirates Team NZ's foiling tacks and gybes are probably the best in the fleet - as evidenced by Race Director and top designer Iain Murray's comment today that Emirates Team NZ had the best bottom end speed of the fleet during tacks and gybes. However, the determining factor is positioning on the course and how they pick shifts and pressure - as the effect on the Great Sound is marked, and there are big gains to be made and winning margins easily lost.

Plus the Kiwis are short of a gallop in both race sharpness and match racing against other AC50's - they should improve with every hard race they get.

Helmsman Peter Burling grows in stature every day and appears to be relishing the challenge ahead of him and his crew. They are up against some outstanding sailors and teams and are more than rising to the occasion.

Their light air performance will be watched with great interest.

Artemis Racing is much the same, but they tend to stumble more than they should. They also don't seem to be lucky - of which Emirates Team NZ seem to have more than their fair share.

In the final race of the day and of the Round, Softbank Team Japan led around every mark finishing a massive two and a half minutes of Groupama Team France as the breeze increased to over 17kts.

The Dean Barker skippered Japanese entry is impressive, as would be expected given their leg-up from Oracle Team USA. Their speed looks good, and they always seem to be ready to pounce and capitalise on any error by their competitor.

Oracle Team USA didn't race today, having sailed her last race in the re-scheduled series yesterday.

She is still the form boat of the series, despite skipper Jimmy Spithill's numerous protestation at the post-race media briefings that they are making too many mistakes for his and his crew's liking.

The hybrid grinding system seems to be working well for them, whether it was given then as much gas as Emirates Team New Zealand's four-cyclist system remains to be seen, but their splashdowns seem to have reduced since its installation - an indication that they may have a bit more control as a result.

For better or worse, the comments made above are based solely on observations on the water and from statistics from the last two days, with no exposure at all to television broadcasts or replays - for the simple reason that these are not available post-race in the media centre or for media reviewing in Bermuda.

You can only call what you see.

For the "morning after" story when it was admitted at the media conference the following morning that a second umpiring error had been made click here

[To have a new look at this incident click on the Settings wagon-wheel at the bottom right hand corner. Change the quality to the highest possible 1080HD, then change the replay speed to the slowest possible 0.25 - so that it replays at quarter speed. Then get out your rule-book and see how the rules work. You also have to view the incident from the aerial perspective and the view from Artemis Racing, noting that ETNZ dig in their leeward bow at a critical point which opens the gap. This has the effect of stopping the AC50 very quickly opening the distance between ETNZ's starboard bow and the after port quarter of Artemis. The question that has to be answered is: Was the space always there for the taking, and therefore Artemis kept clear? Or, did ETNZ create the room by her check to avoid a collision? Then you have to decide whether the check was a deliberate braking manoeuvre by ETNZ, or was it a bad gybe by ETNZ as Artemis claims and they just capitalised on the Kiwis mistake? Also we now know that ETNZ had Blair Tuke, Andy Maloney, Glenn Ashby and Peter Burling all with access to the foil control

Official report for Day 3, Round Robin 1, Qualifiers - America's Cup 35:

Day 3 of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers was a day of drama with Artemis Racing seeing victory in the second race of the day, against Emirates Team New Zealand disappear with an Umpire call.

Five challenging teams; Land Rover BAR, Artemis Racing, SoftBank Team Japan, Groupama Team France and Emirates Team New Zealand, had their chance to enhance their positions on the leaderboard. Oracle Team USA, Defenders of the ‘Auld Mug’ and table-toppers, sat out of the action, having raced three times on Day 2.

After claiming a maiden victory by beating Artemis Racing yesterday, Groupama Team France took another win in the opening race of the day by beating Land Rover BAR comfortably in race 13.

Despite a poor pre-start, which saw them fall 10 seconds behind the British team at mark 1, Franck Cammas’ team recovered brilliantly to stay in hot pursuit, closing the gap ahead of gate 3.

When Land Rover BAR suffered a poor turn at the gate, Groupama Team France were perfectly placed to pounce, seizing on the mistake and taking the lead.

It was a moment that would prove pivotal and costly for Sir Ben Ainslie’s team as they had no response in the remainder of the race.

With ith their new-found confidence, Groupama Team France, who kept up on their foils for 95% of the race, kept their cool, despite a slight nosedive at gate 5, and raced home to win with a 53 second advantage over the Brits.

“It was another very good result for us and to beat the British is always good for the French,” joked Groupama Team France helmsman Franck Cammas, whose team suffered a defeat in their second race of the day against SoftBank Team Japan.

“We were quick, particularly upwind and to finish with a good gap to the other team is very pleasing.

“We made a number of mistakes in the second race and we made it hard for ourselves to be able to recover.

“However, compared to the start of the beginning of the week we are all very happy.”

Meanwhile, for Land Rover BAR, the defeat sees them continue to struggle for form having lost to ORACLE TEAM USA and Emirates Team New Zealand on day two.

Their latest setback means that Sir Ben Ainslie’s team have only won one race out of five in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers so far, the least of all six teams.

“It was a very frustrating race but credit to France, they had better speed than us and took the win,” said British helmsman Sir Ben Ainslie.

“We will have to go away in the coming days and make some big improvements.

“Everyone knows the America’s Cup is all about development and we will be pushing to improve our performance in specific areas.

“We are all working hard and are reasonably happy but we have to keep improving and focus on getting up to speed.”

There was high drama in race 14 as the duel between Artemis Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand proved the most exciting, and most contentious contest of the 35th America’s Cup so far.

Having put themselves ahead at the start, the Swedish team were forced to drop two-boat lengths behind their rivals after being handed a penalty for crossing the start fractionally early.

They managed to catch up with the Kiwis and then swapped the lead with them multiple times throughout the race, but at the final mark there was a dramatic penalty called against the Swedes for not leaving the Kiwis enough room. Artemis Racing continued towards the finish line, but had to take their penalty, allowing Emirates Team New Zealand to take the win at the line.

Outteridge, Iain Percy and their crew looked devastated at the end of the race and finished day three on two points, equal with Groupama Team France and SoftBank Team Japan.

“We are still shocked by what happened,” said Nathan Outteridge.

“As soon as I saw the light I knew what had happened and we were already at the line by the time the decision was made. We all thought we gave them enough room and I still stand by that opinion.

“However the umpires obviously didn’t agree. That’s racing, sometimes you get the decisions and sometimes you don’t.”

Meanwhile, for Emirates Team New Zealand, the decision gifted them a fourth win out of five in the qualifying stages, equaling the record of ORACLE TEAM USA.

“Like in all sport you have to play to the whistle and respect the umpires,” said Kiwi helmsman Peter Burling on the late drama.

“We thought it was definitely a penalty and, at the end of the day, it comes down to the umpires to make the decision. We were just happy to stay upright and even more happy to take the point.

“For us our first goal was to get through the qualifying series and, bar one defeat, it has gone as good as it could have done so far.

“We are confident of beating anyone, including ORACLE TEAM USA, but because they are already in the final, we just have to beat the others first.”

With the pressure on Dean Barker and SoftBank Team Japan, having only won one race before the final day of Round Robin 1, The Japanese team clinched a welcome win in the final race of the day (race 15) comfortably beating the in-form Groupama Team France.

Getting out of the start box 10 knots faster than the French team, SoftBank Team Japan controlled the race from start to finish, gradually building their lead throughout.

With the French team struggling to make a real challenge, SoftBank team Japan eased to the finish line a whole 2 two minutes and 34 seconds ahead of their rivals, capping off a magnificent performance.

“It isn’t a feeling of relief for me because I didn’t feel under pressure,” said helmsman Dean Barker after the race.

“The best thing for me is that we executed a great race and claimed the victory.

“After a frustrating day yesterday, losing two races, today was a great turnaround by everyone in the team and we are really pleased with that.

“For me it is amazing to see some of the results out on the water. It has been really unpredictable and there will be more of that as we go forward.

“The big thing for us is that we need to take opportunities when they come in our races. If we can do that, then hopefully we will see some more wins in the same manner as today.”


Official Results:


Race 13: Groupama Team France beat Land Rover BAR by 53 seconds

Race 14: Emirates Team New Zealand beat Artemis Racing by 13 seconds

Race 15: SoftBank Team Japan beat Groupama Team France by 2 minutes and 34 seconds

Official statement from the Chief Umpire issued two hours after the conclusion of the Racing:

The Chief Umpire for the America's Cup says that on review a wrong call was made to penalise the Swedish Challenger

America’s Cup Race Management (ACRM), the independent organization that oversees the sporting and competitive rules of the America’s Cup, has announced its perspective on the contentious penalty given to Artemis Racing in race 14 of the first Round Robin stage of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers.

As has been seen in the first three days of racing in the 35th America’s Cup, the competition has been closer than ever. The outcome of each race is unpredictable and races are being won and lost by extremely fine margins. This means that the pressure on the umpires to make the correct calls is greater than ever before.

As in all sports, umpires are not infallible and on this occasion, even with the best sailing umpires in the world that are overseeing the 35th America’s Cup, they have admitted that their decision, on reflection, may have been different.

In an interview Richard Slater, ACRM’s Chief Umpire said, “When they were coming down to the final gate mark, with the information we had at the time, we had Artemis Racing on port, as the keep clear boat, and Emirates Team New Zealand on starboard, and our job is to be certain that Artemis Racing were keeping clear, and we weren’t at that time certain they were keeping clear.

“We have had a discussion, we have looked at other evidence, information and data, and I think if we were to go back in time and make that call, we would green that call and not penalize Artemis.”

Asked if that decision could be changed, Slater answered, “No, it is a field of play decision and the decision of the umpire stands.”

The results of race 14 of Round Robin 1 in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers stand.

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