New Zealand Protest Could Affect the America’s Cup…Forever

Published on July 1st, 2013 in Scuttlebutt | by Editor

With so much promise, so much build-up, so desperate a desire to put the America’s Cup on a stage where it can draw unprecedented interest, the last thing the organizers want to hear is bad news.  With the start on July 7, it must now be all about good news.

But the news is not all good.

Scuttlebutt’s legal analyst Cory E. Friedman has prepared a detailed tour of the facts which have led to the current Emirates Team New Zealand protest that could change the face of the America’s Cup forever…

“What a thing was this, too, which that mighty man wrought and endured in the carven horse, wherein all we chiefs of the Argives were sitting, bearing to the Trojans death and fate!” – Homer, Odyssey 4.271.

“It’s not cheating if you get away with it.” – Anon.

Make no mistake about it, the protest by ETNZ and Luna Rossa against the AC72 Class Rules changes mandating elevators (rudder trim tabs) recently imposed by Regatta Director Iain Murray is far from “minutia” and may be the most consequential in the history of the Cup as it affects not just one race but will almost certainly have a substantial if not deciding impact on the outcome of AC 34 itself.

As Artemis’ Tom Schnackenberg was recently quoted: “The [class] rule looked like it was conspiring against foiling, but it turns out the way it has been interpreted, you can.” The primary intentional impediment to foiling in the Class Rule was the ban on trim tabs (elevators) on the rudders. Murray has mandated them.

The first to figure out how to foil with sustained stability without elevators was ETNZ (and Luna Rossa which bought ETNZ’s design package). Indeed ETNZ has succeeded in perfecting the foil to foil jibe, the sailing equivalent of breaking the sound barrier. In contrast, while Oracle has been foiling around the Bay, it turns out it has been using elevators the class measurer twice ruled violated the Class Rule. Oracle has not demonstrated sustained stability without the heretofore banned elevators.

However, with the banned elevators, Oracle, which does not have the fuller bows, rigidity and more complex board control mechanisms ETNZ and Luna Rossa adopted to foil within the Class Rule, has significant aerodynamic and other speed advantages and may very well win the Cup, while without the elevators ETNZ or Luna Rossa are more likely to win.

Moreover, the rule change will have a substantial impact on future Cups. If one way or another the defender can obtain a decisively favorable Class Rule change at the last moment, it becomes hard to imagine how anyone will invest even half the approximately $100 million dollars challenging teams have invested in this Cup campaign. In retrospect, if this is the way it works, the New York Yacht Club, much criticized for high handedness, was negligent when it lost in 1983. It should have just jimmied the rules to ban Australia’s winged keel on some basis or other.

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