America’s Cup: Who Is To Blame For This Mess?

Published on July 8th, 2013

By Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
Back when New York Yacht Club was the keeper of the America’s Cup, they chose their defender by committee. One by one, the straw hats (NYYC committee members) would excuse the lesser teams. No need to waste time on teams unable to compete.

Fast forward to now. If the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger series was run this way, the Artemis Racing team would have been excused last month. They’ve been riding an impossible timeline since last year, and their May 9 training accident would have been the final straw (so to speak).

But not only is the challenger series not run this way, the Swedish team has derailed what momentum the 34th America’s Cup had. “The mess this regatta finds itself in is due in large part to Artemis’ institutional incompetence…,” notes Dana Johannsen of the New Zealand Herald.

The horrific accident last month has not only disrupted the sailing schedule, but has led to an overhaul of the event safety standards, some of which are being argued as unnecessary by Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Challenge.

The International Jury for the America’s Cup began hearing these protests on Monday, which have been consolidated together with the Kiwis and Italians given the opportunity to speak to their submissions. “We’d like to have a decision on Wednesday,” said International Jury chairman David Tillett.

Both Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa are arguing Regatta Director Iain Murray exceeded his authority when some of his 37 Safety Rules effectively changed the AC72 Class Rule. The Regatta Director argues the changes are necessary to run a safe regatta and are in line with the Rules of the event.

Given the troubles that Artemis Racing had already demonstrated – broken wing, structural issues, and slow design – why has their accident provoked such a strong reaction by the event organizers?

“I don’t think anything we have done is an overreaction at all,” asserted Murray. “What may have been an under reaction is what happened after the Oracle capsize (on October 16, 2012). I think we are now doing a whole lot of things that should have been done earlier. For the changes that we have now done, maybe we could have prevented the Artemis accident. I don’t know, but I certainly don’t believe our efforts now are an overreaction.”

The enormity of the Artemis Racing accident – destroyed boat and death of crewman Andrew Simpson – has been a significant wake-up call. “The accident has now motivated all parties to take ownership of safety and have treated it very seriously, which it needs to be,” said Murray.

But were some of the 37 Safety Rules already in the works? “I think it is fair to say that there was a continual work in progress with meetings among the teams,” explained Murray. “Areas of discussion involved the emergency support around the race course, plus concerns about guest racers and the mark boats. So yes, we were already concerned about accidents and what adjustments were needed in these areas.

“Since the accident we have obviously stepped it up, and have very much taken the attitude that these boats can capsize, that it can occur again, and that we need to introduce as best we can all systems to give the teams every bit of assistance to prevent a capsize, and if they do capsize, that the boats remain as long as possible in one piece to insure that the crew can safely return back to shore.”

Expect the next race to be a one-boat race for the Kiwis on July 9 (12:15 start) as Artemis Racing does not yet have their second boat ready to compete.  All challenger round robin races will be broadcast on YouTube until further notice.

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