Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Alinghi wins protest decision over backstays

[Source: Sail World] America's Cup Defender, Alinghi, has won a protest over a series of Public Interpretations given by the ACC Technical Director, Ken McAlpine.

The three interpretations relate to the seemingly innocuous matter of whether backstays can be led forward when not in use.

The first interpretation was relatively simple and was issued on 6 June. Then followed a second interpretation on 13 June and the final interpretation on the same subject on 17 June.

Sail-World understands that Alinghi then protested the Interpretations on 18th June in a full hearing in front of the International Jury which was held last night and ran into the early hours of the morning.

The Jury reconvened this morning and considered their decision which was announced at 1100hrs Valencia time. Sail-World understands that the decision was a 3-2 vote, and centres around the rule that prohibits the Measurement Committee writing an interpretation that is effectively a new rule. Their role is to interpret existing rules not make new ones, or produce Interpretations that effectively create new rules.

The Jury have directed that the ACC Technical Director rewrite the Public Interpretation.

The Rules and Interpretations covered the topmast backstay, running backstays and checkstays and their removal when not in tension.

Prior to the 2007 Louis Vuitton Cup (ie for the 2003 America's Cup) it was permitted to remove the stays when not in use, and then Team New Zealand pioneered the removal the topmast backstay when sailing upwind to reduce drag or windage. The backstay would be detached and led forward to be secured just behind the mast.

For the 2007 America's Cup the rule was changed requiring the stay to remain in place.

Similarly with running backstays and checkstays which were now only allowed to be eased when there 'was a reasonable expectation that they will prevent the boom from going out'

The query from Alinghi centred on the interpretation of 'reasonable expectation' and the role of various parties who might have a view. Alinghi's concerns are believed to have centered on any protest that might have been made for having backstays eased, say in anticipation of the boom being eased out, and that the position of the backstay would be judged by others after the event.

A breach of the rule could involve a resail of the race (as was ordered in the decision by the International Jury after a protest by Desafio Espanol against Mascalzone Latino-Capitalia in Round Robin 2) after ITA-99 removed a topmast backstay was detached and moved alongside the aft face of the mast during racing.

A similar situation existed in the 1992 Louis Vuitton Cup when then New Zealand Challenge with NZL-20 were deemed to have used a spinnaker attached to the bowsprit and did not get a spinnaker pole attacked to the new tack as quickly as the Jury decided, in hindsight, that they could have done so. (Rules at that time required the spinnaker to be attached to a pole at all times except when gybing).

The 'reasonable expectation' phrase is capable of various interpretations and should not be so.

Rule 44.1 (f) was originally quite simple saying 'Whilst racing: running backstays, topmast backstays and check stays shall not be lowered or removed from the mast or the fly block;'

However an agreed amendment on 14 June 2005 made the rule more complex

'Whilst racing; backstays, topmast backstays and check stays shall remain permanently attached to their fixing points on the mast and the hull, deck or cockpit and in the same load bearing position throughout the race. For the avoidance of doubt, a detachment as the result of gear failure does not infringe this rule, provided re-attachment is effected as soon as practicable, nor does easing the runners forward to allow the boom to go out. '

The Alinghi protest is believed to have been cenetred on the last phrase 'provided re-attachment is effected as soon as practicable, nor does easing the runners forward to allow the boom to go out. '

Public Interpretation 41 bought the in the concept of 'reasonable expectation' and this prompted a list of 12 Questions to the ACC Technical Director, which were answered in Public Interpretation 42.

Clearly his answers did not satisfy Alinghi and their only option was to protest in a full hearing with Emirates Team New Zealand also being represented.


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