Weighing in on WeightGate
Published on August 14th, 2013
Oracle Team USA CEO Russell Coutts comments on the rule infraction that his team faces following illegal changes made to their AC45 yachts for the AC World Series events…
There was nothing wrong with the overall weight of the boats. The problem was the position of the additional weight (approx 5 lbs). There is a strut where the forestay is attached. The weight was inside of that tube under the forestay, and then there is rigging under the tube to support it.
(Note: Per the AC45 rule, any shortfall in the minimum required yacht weight shall be made up by corrector weights securely fixed to the hulls within 0.420m of the shroud chainplate bulkhead, as specified by the Measurement Committee)
The measurers first found the extra weight in Ben Ainslie’s BAR boat, which had been the Aleph boat. Our team then determined that we did it, and we also found that the change was made to Oracle 4 and Oracle 5. So all three boats were in contravention of the rules.
After the discovery, we had our designers run the VPP to determine the impact of the weight. I think the finding was the weight would induce something like a 1/100th of a degree angle change to the boat. The performance impact was hardly measurable. It induced a near insignificant improvement upwind and a similarly small detriment to downwind speed.
It is good to remember that the measurement weight of the AC45 had been increased several times since the class was launched. This was due to the variance in branding on the boats. Interestingly, if you were so motivated to have weight forward, you could have legally painted the bows of the boat, or put heavier branding forward, as long as the total boat weight was within the rule limit.
At the World Series events, there is a measurement process, but only to confirm the boat’s total weight. The measurers rely on each team to seek approval where it is required, and thus had no process to look inside each strut on the boat.
But now we are where we are, and the people that did it feel horrible. It is no small thing to withdraw from the AC World Series events when you have significant commercial partners involved, and you have a whole team of people who, depending on your view of this, may be tarnished by this incident.
While we have determined that the team management and skippers were not involved, I remain very disappointed by all this, and find it to be a very unfortunate error.
Note: Images below are not of the illegal boats, but show where the additional weight was located.