A Sticky America's Cup
A Sticky America's Cup
It's just two weeks until the event that’s all too often touted as the pinnacle of our sport, and the organizers still don’t have a permit from the Coast Guard to run the show. Following Artemis’s fatal capsize last month, safety recommendations (all 37 of them) expected to mitigate the risk of another tragedy have been submitted and attached to the Coast Guard’s permit. Not surprisingly, however, not all the teams are agreeable to the regulations being proposed.
Over the past two days, arbitrators have attempted to mediate with the teams--both as a group and individually. If agreement is reached, the regulations will be adopted into the Class Rule and the Protocol. But as PRO John Craig notes, if the “sticking” points cannot be resolved among the teams, the matter will be turned over to the International Jury. From there, it’s anyone’s guess as to the outcome.
When will the saftey regulations be published and a permit executed by the Coast Guard?
JC: There may be one or two sticking points that we can’t get around. Changing a Class Rule requires all four teams to agree to it. A Protocol change requires a majority and so that’s a little easier. If we get stuck, it may end up going to the Jury to make a determination, but once that’s done we would look to attach the Jury’s recommendations with the permit. But basically they would be small tweaks--the majority of the teams are in agreement with the new safety regulations.
Can you elaborate on the “sticking” points? Do they involve modifications to the boats?
JC: One of the examples in the safety recommendations is to make symmetrical elevators on the rudders. The elevators are lifting wings on the rudders that you can’t adjust, and they are currently asymetrical because they can’t go outside the beam of the boat. So you have one lifting elevator that’s shorter than the other. Iain Murray’s recommendation was to increase the size of those, and you could make them symmetrical and the same size. Some of the teams are saying, “We’re happy with where we are, we don’t think that’s a change we need to make.” Maybe the negotiation is just to make them a little bigger because the bigger they are, the more stable they are.
When changing something seemingly small like that, there must be a ripple effect that requires other changes on the boats?
JC: It does, and it doesn’t. We’ve got a lot of sailing in July that the teams will use to train and sail. If the regulations are approved and adopted by all the teams, there’s still time to develop further in July before we move into priority racing time.
With Artemis out until late July, the competition for July has become more of an extended training time?
JC: Yeah, but it’s still got value. The winner of the round robin in July will get the opportunity to choose to go either into the semifinals of the Louis Vuitton or right into the final. For the matches where Artemis is not there--possibly through late July--ETNZ and Luna Rossa will use those as training days. It’s not what we were looking for, but I think it’ll still prove interesting. I wouldn’t be surprised if Luna Rossa and ETNZ decide on one of those days Artemis is still out to invite the “other” team on a friendly “let’s go practice” type deal.
What else do the new safety regs cover?
JC: There are three sections that involve Class Rule changes, Protocol changes, and Racing Rules of Sailing changes. For example, changes to the Class Rule include increasing the weight of the boat. When the box rule was first created, the architects of that rule never envisioned the boats to foil, and the designers have managed to make that happen. As a result the structural loads have gone up significantly because the boats are getting lifted out of the water. One of the regulations Iain put forward is another 100 kg of weight that could be added to the boat for structural purposes to increase the structural strength around the main beam and around the load cases for the foils. Another recommendation was to make the farings clear or opaque so that you can see through them, making it easier to find somebody if they’re under the water.
A Protocol change is that, in July, the wind limit will be 20 knots, and that wind limit is taken 30 seconds over a 30 second period for 15 minutes before the start. It’s also tide-adjusted. [Craig notes it’s a little technical and makes reference to Regatta Notice 185 on the AC website.]
Other recommendations require two rescue divers--one on each of the team chase boats, and allow the team chase boats into the race area during the racing to follow the boats closely. There’ll be a paramedic on board one of those rescue boats. We’ve increased the certification of some of the personal gear, the helmets, and we’ve also developed two systems: One is a flashing strobe light that the guys wear on their lifejacket which is extremely high powered--Stan Honey and our technical gurus developed it--to make it easier for divers to locate people underwater quicker. We’ve also developed another system in the event that all the guys go into the water; it’s like a key fob you have in your car. If they’re safe, they click it, and the response shows up on a display on the rescue boat to say he’s OK. If guys don’t respond, we’ll know who we’re looking for and what position on the boat they were at. Another big one is a move to soft marks. The VIP mark boats that we used to use saw the race boats go around the VIP mark boat itself--the teams will now go around a soft mark.