Davidson calls press conference and Swedes take the British. Keith Wheatley reports from Auckland
On day of steady drizzle, light airs and huge windshifts, the second day of International America’s Cup regatta in Auckland was dominated by events off the water. Designer Laurie Davidson called a news conference to deny any involvement in an alleged plot to transfer design secrets from Team New Zealand to the Seattle-based One World challenge.
Davidson was the brains behind both NZL38, the boat that won the Cup for the Kiwis in 1995 and NZL60, the yacht that kept the trophy in Auckland. In early 2000 the designer defected to the US team, in company with at least half-a-dozen of the NZ sailing team.
In the American courts Sean Reeves, a disgruntled ex-TNZ rules advisor sacked by One World, has claimed that Davidson brought all the key hull and rig information with him in clear breach of both Cup rules and intellectual copyright law.
“I have made my reputation designing boats over many years and my ethics are such that I don’t have to be involved in stealing things from other teams,” emphasised Davidson.
“I could draw the lines of both the yachts from memory to within a centimetre. I wouldn’t need to take disks and files with me to One World.” However, under pressure from tough questioning he admitted to mistakenly retaining a rating certificate that belonged to TNZ and admitted showing scores of colour photographs of the hulls to One World before returning them to the Kiwi base.
Craig McCaw, the cellphone billionaire backing One World, sent a message of total support for Davidson and other team members accused by Reeves. The America’s Cup arbitration panel is expected to rule next month on whether One World are in breach of regatta rules. At worst they could be thrown out of the Cup.
Meanwhile on the Hauraki Gulf the British boat squared up to SWE63, the only one of the 2002 generation boats to compete in this event. For the second race running, helmsman Andy Beadsworth dominated a start, shutting the Swedes out behind the committee boat.
As expected, up the first beat the Swede’s superior boatspeed pushed them to a small lead within five minutes. Then a massive right shift put GBR52 around 10 lengths ahead, a margin they maintained downwind. However, upwind on the second beat the situation was reversed when the breeze went left and the Swedes cashed in to win by around five lengths taking their first race in the match race series.
“We had a great start and the crew-work was two levels up on yesterday,” said skipper Ian Walker. “We feel we did very well against a faster boat.” In the second race TNZ trounced One World by over two minutes after their race was turned inside-out by massive windshifts.
Racing for Round Robin One will resume on Thursday after Wednesday’s scheduled day-off.