Protests, boycotts, accusations of cheating and corruption, threats to withdraw…welcome to yet another typical America’s Cup opener!
Unsurprising but still confusing for the average fan, understanding the current mess requires some editing to remove the vast amount of white noise and diversion. Fortunately, that’s a skill that we here at Sailing Anarchy have in abundance.
If you’re good at deciphering solid debate from insane spewing, the IJ thread is probably the best discussion about the Luna Rossa and ETNZ protests. Clean’s interview with Radio Sports NZ embedded above covers the subject decently in a few minutes for the casual fan; for the audio impaired or those looking for a little more clarity, here are a few things you can do for an easy understanding of the issues:
1) Quit accusing Iain Murray of cheating!
The man is not on the take, nor has his brain been taken over by nano-bots developed by an Oracle subsidiary. We can’t find a single person who has ever known Murray who will accuse him of anything less than fairness and impartiality. His rules move may have been misguided, but it wasn’t because he was in anyone’s pocket. As Goethe said, “Misunderstandings and neglect create more confusion in this world than trickery and malice. At any rate, the last two are certainly much less frequent.” Oh, and after you take off your tinfoil hats, ask Paul Cayard to take his off too. They may be out to get you, but bitching about it makes you look even worse than you already do.
2) Don’t think this is about competition, or major competitive advantage.
These protests are entirely about procedure and precedent. Despite early informal assent to the main points, LR and ETNZ did not agree to two of Murray’s safety recommendations, and when they were incorporated via the back door of the Marine Event Permit (MEP) application process, ETNZ believes they caused a change to the AC72 Class Rule without the required procedure. Whether the changes are about safety or not is completely irrelevant. Whether the Coast Guard likes them or not is irrelevant. You know what else is irrelevant? Whether a decision in ETNZ’s favor will cause a cancellation of the Cup and the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars. The jury is not even allowed to consider it. In our opinion, only one question really matters to Dalton and Sirena: Can the Regatta Director make decisions that will change the nature of AC34’s essential governing agreements and documents without following the rules contained therein for such changes?
3) If you need to blame someone, blame the group that came up with the safety panel process and implemented it so poorly.
Red Flag 1: These were called ‘recommendations of Iain Murray.” Not “Recommendations of Expert Safety Panel”, not “Mandatory Safety Requirements from Safety Experts.” They came from one man in permissive language, and Iain still wonders why they were not more fully embraced. Never mind the insurance issues: You started off on the wrong foot. Red Flag 2: Before discussing the details of the safety recommendations with key people inside the teams, Murray released them to the public, along with a statement saying they would be sent over as conditions for the Coast Guard’s Marine Event Permit (MEP) – an essential license for the event. We don’t know who advised Murray that his changes would pass easily, but after the dictatorial, heavy-handed move of stapling them to the MEP application, an agreement was never going to happen. You can’t tell people that their opinion doesn’t matter and then, a month later, tell them you would like them you need their agreement.
4) Through all of this, we can’t, for the life of us, understand where the hell the jury has been.
The protests were filed ages ago. Everyone knew they were coming more than two weeks ago – even before ETNZ announced it on June 27th. So with the first schedule race on the 7th and a protest involving the Regatta Director, the Measurement Committee, and both teams scheduled to race, what does the Jury do? They don’t show up until July 8th. Seriously, folks; What the fuck? Hasn’t anyone in San Francisco worked an America’s Cup before? Did the folks responsible for protests and the Jury not understand that every single AC in recent memory has some kind of rules or legal drama at the outset? Were their jobs officiating in Marstrand or Kiel or wherever that much more important than the first match of the Louis Vuitton Cup, or was the ridiculous delay in this part of the process due to yet another lack of proper funding from the organizers for yet another essential part of AC34?
5) Don’t get sucked into the discussion about safety.
If existing AC72 rudders were unsafe, Murray himself wouldn’t have gone back on his own recommendations and allowed them after at first recommending they be illegal. If the AC72 Class Rule is inherently unsafe, ETNZ wouldn’t be nailing foiling gybes and hitting 42.7 with no drama. These two rules may help all teams have a less dramatic heavy-air bearaway, but you know what else would do that? Moth-style automatic ride-height controlled flapped foils. The boats would be a hell of a lot quicker too. What about chopping off 5 meters of wing? That would make the bearaway easier too – way easier. Would either of those changes pass a Class vote even though they would make everyone that much more safe? Hell no. Should they be attached to the MEP, anyway? Hell no.
In our opinion, the decision is a simple one: We can we find no justification in the Deed, Protocol, Class Rule, or Notice of Race that allows Murray or anyone else to modify a Class Rule without the consent of the teams.
1) If they find Murray’s recommendations valid, chances are ETNZ will sail the LV mostly alone. Artemis will try to get to the line and be lucky if they do so by August. Bertelli will take his ball and bat and go home unless Dalts can convince him otherwise. Hell hath no fury like an Italian scorned.
2) If they find for ETNZ and Luna Rossa, Murray can either (1) figure out a way to amend the MEP to accept the previous rules – a tough one considering the hardline stance he took the other day and the Coast Guard’s reluctant and out-of-place role in all this (2) work with the teams and the CG on a solution to be implemented as soon as practicable – also unlikely given the bad blood, (3) resign and let the next guy deal with it, or (4) stand his ground with whoever is his boss (ummm…anyone?) and get fired so that someone else can get this regatta back on its feet.