Umpire John Standly said officials do not control the destiny of races and nor are they influenced by the hearty abuse thrown at them by sailors during Louis Vuitton Cup yacht racing.
Umpire John Standly said officials do not control the destiny of races and nor are they influenced by the hearty abuse thrown at them by sailors during Louis Vuitton Cup yacht racing. Standly, at the centre of a controversial call which penalised Luna Rossa allowing AmericaOne a vital win in racing yesterday, said umpires only called a foul when they were sure a boat had broken a rule.
Luna Rossa was leading AmericaOne in the top of the table clash in the cup, when halfway down the final run yesterday and after a series of protest calls, Standly decided the Italians had not sailed a proper course and penalised them. Boats must sail a direct line to the finish without cutting their rivals off. The Italians were adamant afterwards, and distributed computer printouts backing their case, the umpires got the call wrong and their steering had been accurate. AmericaOne, not surprisingly, said the Italians had steered over the top of them so should have been penalised. Although Luna Rossa was able to trap AmericaOne into a penalty later, they lost the lead and the race in doing so. The on-water umpires’ calls cannot be appealed, and the win ensured AmericaOne at least the chance to sail-off to make the cup finals.
Prada must win their last two races to keep their finals hopes alive. The call sparked a testy exchange between Standly and Luna Rossa tactician Torben Grael afterwards, with the Brazilian-born Grael clearly crushed by the decision. “I had a day with different emotions. It was bad to see some result that is out of our control at the end, there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s just in the umpire’s hands and it’s just sad to finish that way,” he said. “I’m completely sure we were sailing above our proper course. “We got hit in our running backstay by the spinnaker from AmericaOne, and there was no decision from the umpires to penalise AmericaOne for sailing from behind…that was very upsetting to see the very next flag go yellow, which is our flag. “Maybe it’s just coincidence, or maybe it’s just because that’s the way it is in the America’s Cup. But it certainly doesn’t feel well.” Standly said crew held their fate in their own hands. “I don’t think we hold their destiny, they do that themselves,” he said. “We only umpire the race as we see the race. Where the boats go is clearly the role of the skippers and the tacticians. It’s not for us to control their destiny at all.” Standly said umpires were under pressure, though not necessarily any more than skippers and crew. “We have to make the right decisions. We’re in very close contact with the boats, we have to be very clear when we penalise boats that somebody has broken a rule and yes, there are pressures,” he said.
Standly stood by his call against Luna Rossa, saying he believed AmericaOne had kept to its proper course but Luna Rossa had not. Standly admitted the umpires did hear a lot of noise from the boats as the two teams protested. “We were getting signals and indications and being shouted at by both boats. We’re not really aware of the noise, we’re doing our job,” he said. “We’re not really influenced by the activities on board the boats, if we were to believe everything we were told we’d be in serious trouble.” While Paul Cayard on AmericaOne was the loudest, Luna Rossa skipper Francesco de Angelis said that was not necessarily a problem. “I don’t understand English a lot,” he said. “They don’t understand Italian either.” Cayard, who does actually speak Italian from his 1992 America’s Cup campaign with the Europeans, may now be in the position where he can decide not to sail the final race, to give Team Dennis Conner a chance of sneaking into the Louis Vuitton Cup finals ahead of Prada. Cayard would not say whether he would race the last day against Stars & Stripes if he wins against Nippon today. However that may have been to unsettle the Italians, rather than through an intention not to sail.