America’s Cup: What do we do know?

Published on August 26th, 2013

With the Louis Vuitton Cup decidedly won 7-1 by Emirates Team New Zealand team over Luna Rossa Challenge, we now must decide where to turn our focus for America’s Cup news. Here are three choices:

1) 34th America’s Cup: This is the obvious choice, the purpose for the entire event. Starting in two weeks on September 7, this best of 19 series will pit the Kiwis against Oracle Team USA (OTUSA).

2) Red Bull Youth America’s Cup: With the challenger series offering such lop-sided races, this 10-team fleet race could offer what has been sorely lacking. Expect to see close racing, with sailors representing their country, in a venue better suited to the smaller one design AC45 catamaran. Racing is on Sept. 1-4.

3) Jury hearings: The International Jury will conduct a hearing on August 29 to determine if defender OTUSA has breached Article 60.1 of the Protocol. This hearing stems from the discovery that the team illegally altered their AC45s during the AC World Series. The investigation revealed that three boats under the team’s control either had weight improperly added to the boat, illegally lengthened the kingpost strut, or both.

With the possibility of significant penalties resulting from the International Jury hearing, this is expected to be the dominant story this week. Here are a few more twists to this saga…

* Article 60 did not exist in the original Protocol for the 34th America’s Cup, but was later added by the event organizer (read: OTUSA) to “protect the favorable reputation of the America’s Cup”. It is believed this amendment, unofficially dubbed “the Dalton clause”, was put in place to rein in free-speaking Kiwi team boss Grant Dalton. The irony that this clause may now turn on the defender is not lost on anyone.

* While there does not appear to be any dispute that OTUSA illegally altered their boats, the question for the International Jury will be whether this illegal act brought harm to the event per Article 60. The illegal act is also being reviewed as an ISAF Rule 69 (Gross Misconduct) violation, though the time frame for that ruling would typically occur beyond the race schedule of the America’s Cup.

* OTUSA withdrew the illegally altered boats from four AC World Series events, which revised the scoring for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 America’s Cup World Series championships. Emirates Team New Zealand now becomes the winner of the inaugural 2011-12 season championship, while the revised 2012-13 standings see Luna Rossa Piranha at the top of the combined championship.

* The funding for the design and manufacture of the AC45s came from OTUSA. That the team is now guilty of altering their boats within this strict one design class has observers wondering whether this conduct has extended to their AC72.

* OTUSA alleged in a recent protest to the Jury that members of Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa had trespassed on an Oracle AC45 in an attempt to gain the information. The Jury Chairman noted that OTUSA had inappropriately leaked a reference to their protest to the Sailing Anarchy website prior to filing the protest. OTUSA later withdrew the protest; the jury charged the team $5000.

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