Pumping Debate Gets Closure

Published on March 22nd, 2016

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
The legality of pumping was recently brought into question when Oracle Team USA revealed their effective use of pumping during the 34th America’s Cup. When seriously in a 1-8 hole, they found new speed to win eight straight races to beat challenger Emirates Team New Zealand 9-8.

Among their speed discoveries was how pumping the wing enabled Oracle to climb up onto the foils, which helped them convert an upwind speed deficit into a significant gain. “If we didn’t pump the wing, we would lose ground,” explained Oracle team skipper Jimmy Spithill.

But was pumping legal? Normally no, however…

The Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS) used by the sport had been modified for the America’s Cup, with significant changes made to Rule 42 – the propulsion rule – which is the section of the RRS that governs actions like pumping.

Under the RRS America’s Cup edition (RRS AC), the rule stated only that “A yacht shall compete only by using the wind and water to increase, maintain or decrease her speed. Her crew may adjust the trim of the wing, sails, rudders, daggerboards and hulls, and perform other acts of seamanship.”

Under the RRS, the basic tenet is the same as the RRS AC, but the RRS also includes a list of exceptions and prohibited actions, of which pumping is a prohibited action. It describes pumping as “repeated fanning of any sail either by pulling in and releasing the sail or by vertical or athwartship body movement.”

So in the RRS, the action of Oracle was clearly illegal, but since a reference to pumping was not explicitly included in the RRS AC, and since this question never surfaced during the 2013 event, we don’t know what the opinion would have been in 2013 under the RRS AC.

But we do now.

The text for Rule 42 remains unchanged for the 35th America’s Cup, and one of the teams has now asked the question regarding the legality of pumping:

Question:
Does an AC45 Yacht or an AC Class Yacht break Rule 42 of the World Sailing Racing Rules of Sailing (America’s Cup Edition) – v2.7 if the wing or any other sail is repeatedly pulled in and then released?

Answer:
No, an AC45 Yacht or an AC Class Yacht may pull in and release the wing or any other sail without restriction.

Finally, the pumping debate gets closure. Standing by for next controversy.

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