Louis Vuitton's Contestants Go Nowhere - SailNet Community
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Louis Vuitton's Contestants Go Nowhere

No racing at sea, but jury very busy ashore

Two days ago 35 knot winds were blowing the tops off the waves in the Hauraki Gulf and today there wasn't enough breeze to ruffle the surface of the water or to fill the sails of the big sloops competing for the Louis Vuitton Cup. The four boats scheduled to race sat on the mill-pond surface and waited nearly three hours for the committee to decide there would be no racing.

This nearly landlocked piece of water, surrounded by rugged coastline and dominated on its south side by Rangitoto, a near symmetrical, extinct volcano, has produced several days when the wind was too strong for safe sailing and some, like today, when there was no wind at all. If ever there was a venue that suited the old adage, "if you don't like the weather, just wait five minutes" this is it.

Nippon vs. America True

While the racing boats were going no place on the Gulf, the International Jury was busy on shore with protests and rulings, one of which could effect the point standings. The jury has taken up a protest lodged late today (N.Z. time) by the Japanese challenge, which claims Team Dennis Conner used an illegal keel or rudder in Sunday's race against Asura. A ruling against Stars & Stripes on this matter could cost the series leader the point it gained in defeating Japan in that match, which was the opening race of the semifinals.

The protest comes under the "country of origin" rule that says that a boat must be designed and built in its home country, but that after it has been shipped to New Zealand it may use underwater appendages (keel, rudders, wings, etc.) built in New Zealand, provided they are designed by a national of the challenging country. The protest by Japan says that "an appendage" on Stars & Stripes (thought to be a rudder) was not made either in New Zealand or the United States. A request for a ruling on this matter was made in late December to the International America's Cup Arbitration Panel by America True. The Panel has yet to make a ruling.

The new protest by Japan is expected to be ruled on tomorrow by the International Jury, which is separate from the Arbitration Panel. The question was raised by Japan, when it came to light that Stars & Stripes had been given permission for a re-measurement after Race One of the semis. A yacht is allowed one re-measurement after a round of racing has begun. The Japanese believe the change to Stars & Stripes was the removal of the rudder in question and its replacement with an American made rudder. If this is the case, then the rudder was used only in the first race of the series and the matter would not effect races 2 and 3.

The issue comes under Article 19 of the America's Cup protocol between challengers and the New Zealand defenders, and deals specifically with country of origin matters.

After a close inspection by chief measurer Ken MacAlpine, the International Jury decided today to give Team Dennis Conner another day to make repairs to the stern of Stars & Stripes, where she was rammed by France's Le Defi as the two boats approached the first leeward mark in Wednesday's race. A submission had been made to the jury by America True, suggesting that the damage could have been repaired in the 24 hours initially granted. The implication was clear that America True felt Team Dennis Conner was stalling for time to wait for the period of light winds to move out.

America One vs. Prada

In a separate ruling the jury then penalized the French team one half point for failing to avoid a collision in the mark rounding clash with Stars & Stripes. At the time of the contact, the on-water jury assessed the French a penalty turn, and this maneuver effectively took them out of the race, as they managed to get both their jib and spinnaker wrapped around the headstay in attempting to complete the requisite maneuver. Today's ruling was specifically for making contact and causing damage to the other boat. The half point puts Le Defi into a negative points position, with minus one half point.

With Stars & Stripes still in the shed being patched up, tomorrow will see only two matches. Paul Cayard's America One comes up against Japan's Asura; and Italy's Luna Rossa, sporting a new mast after the previous one broke in Tuesday's race, sails against the hard-luck French Le Defi .

Bruce Kirby is offline  
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