AC Breaking


With the jury ruling Luna Rossa and ETNZ’s way, the Italians made their way to the starting line for the third round robin race of the Louis Vuitton Cup, their competitor an Artemis ghost ship. The high point of the race? When ETNZ lined up on the final downwind, nailing a foiling gybe just outside the race course in sight of their Italian sister ship.  With Luna Rossa back in the mix, we’ve actually got a real sailboat race happening in just two days; a Kiwi vs. Italian battle will happen this Saturday.  And as annoying as “Ruddergate” has been, we’re still pretty psyched to see these bad motherfuckers converging on the start line.

The Peacemakers

The America’s Cup Jury finally made their decision, releasing the full document around 11 AM this morning, an hour before Luna Rossa was scheduled to be on the start line.  And amazingly, their findings were logical, accurate, and exactly as we both hoped for and predicted.  Importantly, they’ll have no effect on the racing; Oracle has plenty of time to build Class legal rudders, while Paul Cayard’s paranoid delusions about ETNZ and Luna Rossa being ‘out to get him’ were proven wrong this morning, with Artemis likely allowed to race in its existing configuration.  ETNZ committed itself to vote for Cayard’s team to “be given dispensation from the Class Rule regarding rudder elevators so long as they otherwise comply with the Class Rule and the safety recommendation”.  Dalton went so far as to urge the other teams to vote for the exception – not like they’d need it.  Sirena will do as Dalts asks and Coutts will do what it takes for the LV Cup’s red-headed stepchild to go racing.

Here are the important parts of the findings and decision.

1.  Safety provisions authored by the Regatta Director and attached to the Marine Event Permit are not ‘governmental regulations’ that everyone must comply with under the Protocol, therefore they may not alter the AC72 Class Rule without unanimous consent of competitors.  The jury based its decision entirely on this fact, and chucked Murray’s new rules on rudder placement, size, and adjustability, as well as the 100kg increase in Max Weight.  Coast Guard testimony helped give Murray and GGYC a bit of an “out”.  Reasoning, from P.11:

The USCG stated that they do not dictate what is in a Safety Plan and if a component of a Safety Plan could not be implemented, it was incumbent upon the Event Sponsors to communicate with USCG. This would not immediately affect the status of the Marine Event Permit but the event sponsor through consultation would need to restore the Event Sponsor to detail how that issue would be mitigated in respect of risk and there would be further review by USCG. 

2. We are impressed by the Jury’s willingness to take on the liability issues that plague race organizers everywhere.  We believe the increasing responsibilities for safety being foisted on race management by lawyers and insurers must be resisted, and those who sue yacht clubs, classes, or Race Officers when they are injured by their own or another boat’s actions should be made pariahs from the sailing community and humiliated endlessly in public.  The skipper is responsible for the safety of his adult crew — period.  From P. 19:

Each Competitor and crew member must remain responsible for their own safety at all times.  Each Competitor and crew member must continue to make their own decision to race, or to continue racing. This is a fundamental principle of the sport of sailing and is reflected in the ISAF approved Americas Cup Racing Rules of Sailing (Rule 4). Protocol Article 18.1 also provides that each Competitor taking part in the Event does so at its own risk and responsibility. The Jury cannot emphasize enough the importance of these key principles. While the Regatta Director does have some responsibilities for safety, the above are responsibilities directly required of ‘Yachts’, i.e. Competitors and skippers. To what extent the Regatta Director should seek to protect Competitors from failures of their own responsibilities and decisions within the context of the America’s Cup Rules need not be addressed at this time.

3. Iain Murray may be guilty of impatience and perhaps of letting his emotions or fear of liability getting in the way of good management, but he’s definitely guilty of getting terrible advice from his legal team.  Still, Iain Murray has more integrity in his little finger than most ISAF officials have in their entire body.  As we wrote the other day, the man is in no one’s pocket, and he’d walk sooner than he’d intentionally stack the deck for one competitor over another.   From P. 18:

The Regatta Director showed leadership in choosing to publish the Safety Recommendations and express his concern for the safety of the AC72 Yachts and their sailors. It reflected 46 years of experience of the Regatta Director as a sailor and extensive design experience…In the Jury’s view the Regatta Director has acted independently, with the utmost integrity and with a view to the safety of participating sailors and all others involved with the event being paramount.

4. As we wrote the other day, Murray, working with team advisors, should easily be able to come up with a revised safety plan to attach to the all-important MEP.   The Coast Guard is like the honey badger; it doesn’t really give a shit.  As long as the jury decision won’t create unguided missiles likely to careen off into the spectator areas, the Coast Guard will stamp it.  With Larry’s connections, they’d probably stamp a format that allowed sharpened, 50-foot long ‘jousting sticks’ on the bows.  The problem now is face; Murray stated unequivocally that, if the jury ruled against the new rules, he’d have ‘no choice but to go back to the Coast Guard and tell them I don’t consider it safe’.  And GGYC, in a submission to the Jury, wrote that “If the Safety Recommendations were cherry-picked, GGYC would face huge liability issues and the Regatta is likely not to continue.”  Silly statements and unsound legal decisions aside, how do they continue on their way?  From P. 22:

The Jury orders the Regatta Director to make the views of all the Competitors known to the CG with regard to the Marine Event Permit if circumstances necessitate a change to any component of the safety plan along with the assessment on how the change affects the overall safety of the event.

That’s all it takes, folks.  Will Murray put this behind him, doing what’s required to move forward with ‘the Summer of Racing’?  Will GGYC take a valium and step back from the edge of the cliff?

Have your say here.