Three boats received point penalties for Leg 7 sailing rule infringements from the independent ISAF-appointed jury sitting in Lisbon on Wednesday.
Team SCA, Dongfeng Race Team and MAPFRE all admitted sailing the wrong way in Traffic Separation Schemes (TSS) and were each penalised a point to be added to their overall total in this low-scoring event.
Additionally, Team SCA were given an additional penalty point for sailing into an exclusion zone (see Noticeboard for full details of all infringements).
The decisions mean that Dongfeng Race Team drop a further point behind overall race leaders, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Charles Caudrelier’s crew trailing now by six points with two legs to go.
The Chinese-backed team are now level on 22 points with Team Brunel - the Dutch crew officially ranked second because of their superior record in the in-port series, which breaks ties.
MAPFRE drop back to 27 points, level with Team Alvimedica, but the Turkish/American team move up to fourth courtesy of their better in-port record (see scoreboard).
All three teams admitted their infringements in the hearing, but said in mitigation that there had been confusion over how clearly the TSS zones had been marked and the angle the boats were allowed to sail within them.
“This gave us no advantage, it was an honest mistake,” Team SCA skipper, Sam Davies, told the jury.
“There was no shipping in the vicinity at the time, so no safety issue.”
The jury was earlier given evidence from Race Director, Jack Lloyd, who said that the offences took place early in the 2,800-nautical mile leg from Newport, Rhode Island, to Lisbon, which started on May 17.
The infringements were spotted by Race Control staff and corroborated by diagrams of sailing movements sent from the crews themselves.
Both MAPFRE and Dongfeng Race Team witnesses said that recently introduced guidelines of sailing in TSS zones had confused sailors and that improvements needed to be made in the future to assist crews from inadvertently breaking sailing rules.
Despite the decisions, the race is a long way from being decided.
With the comeback of Team Vestas Wind to the fleet returning it to full-strength for Leg 8 to Lorient, France, the chasing teams still have the chance to cut drastically Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s lead before the final showdown to Gothenburg.