Chief umpire and international jury chairman Bryan Willis admits he would have no problem with changing the rule which allowed AmericaOne to avoid a 40 second penalty during racing for the Louis Vuitton Cup yesterday.
He said the rule was unusual for match-racing, and seemed peculiar to the America’s cup challengers series.
AmericaOne were under notice of the penalty after a near-collision with Japan entry Asura during race four on the Hauraki Gulf yesterday, but then called for a postponement to the actual start because of a broken steering chain.
Under the rules, the race committee can allow the delay and therefore the penalty would not apply.
The Nippon challenge considered their own protest, but withdrew their complaints after checking the rule book.
Willis said the procedures were governed by rules dealing with the early races, though in later races in the series they did not apply.
“AmericaOne requested a restart because the boat was disabled. We went on board to see that it was disabled, and indeed it was,” Willis said.
“The other question that might cross people’s minds was whether it was accidental. We were perfectly satisfied that they had no control over it so we were quite happy on those points.
“If a boat is disabled before the starting signal, she can request a delay. The rules are such that in the restart the penalty is not carried forward ad so, perhaps a little bit luckily, the new start was without a penalty.”
Willis said normally under match-racing there was no restart if a boat was disabled between the pre-start and starting gun, a time here of 10 minutes.
“If the organising committee now wish to change this rule, to make it more in line with the norm, the jury would certainly not oppose that move.”
Skipper Paul Cayard said he did feel fortunate, but his tactician John Kostecki had known the rules.
`I’ve done enough racing to know this is a pretty unusual concept, and Kostecki was the guy who thought of it. I guess he’s been reading the rules pretty carefully,” Cayard said.
“Its pretty clear this is in there (the rules). I did notice that later on, should this happen in the finals, you cannot ask for a postponement for damage caused through a fault of your own. “And I do feel lucky.”
But he added he had been startled by the aggressive nature of Asura’s skipper, Australian-born world match racing champion Peter Gilmour, before the start of racing with the two boats coming within centimetres of colliding.
He suggested the two campaigns had different aims this early in racing.
“There was no contact. I was pretty concerned there was going to be, it looked pretty aggressive to me,” Cayard said later.
“I’ve raced against Peter for quite a few years so I know he’s very aggressive. I was pretty surprised with that opening move though.
“Just different goals by different people. I’m pretty interested in keeping my boat in one piece here in this first round and gathering information which is going to tell me a lot about where we need to go in the next four months.”
AmericaOne eventually beat Asura by more than two minutes to retain their unbeaten position after four races.
They are joined at the top of the rankings by Luna Rossa of Italy and Young America from the New York Yacht Club.
Another United States entry Abracadabra has three wins.
Mr America’s Cup Dennis Conner has had a poor start to his campaign. Stars n Stripes has registered just one win from three races, and was comprehensively trounced by both Luna Rossa and Abracadabra today.
The Swiss on board Be Happy were anything but that, after being on the wrong end of two more heavy defeats — with the added embarrassment of having boats from races which started 10 minutes later overtake them.
Young Australia, sailing an old boat, are also winless but did beat Luna Rossa at the start today.
French skipper Bertrand Pace revealed his syndicate already plans to reb