Emirates Team New Zealand's protest against Alinghi is heard. Matthew Sheahan reports
The official report of today’s big debate read as follows;
‘By a majority decision the Jury dismissed the protest that Emirates Team New Zealand filed against Alinghi following race four. The Jury was not satisfied that Alinghi broke America’s Cup Class Rule 31.6, which reads: “Mainsails shall be able to be lowered to the deck without the necessity of a crew member going aloft.”
In its decision, the Jury noted it is at the discretion of the Measurement Committee to take any further steps it feels necessary to ensure yachts are in compliance with the America’s Cup Class Rule.
Emirates Team New Zealand filed the protest after watching television footage that showed one of the normal post-race measurement checks. The measurers asked both teams to lower their mainsails, without the assistance of a man aloft, to demonstrate compliance with ACC Rule 31.6. Emirates Team New Zealand lowered its mainsail without a man aloft, to the satisfaction of the measurers.
The Alinghi team asked the measurer who had boarded SUI 100 if they could raise a man up the mast to fix a halyard (which wouldn’t be put under tension) to the mainsail, for safety reasons, to prevent the sail from being damaged if it came down uncontrollably, and the measurer on board agreed to this request.
Alinghi bowman Pete Van Niewenhuyzen was raised to the top of the mast, fixed the halyard and held his arms out, to show that he wasn’t assisting or interfering with the process. The halyard lock was tripped, and the mainsail was lowered to the deck. At the time, the measurer was satisfied with the demonstration.
But the television footage showed Van Niewenhuyzen’s foot making contact with the mainsail as he swung around the mast with the boat rolling in the unsettled sea state. For Emirates Team New Zealand, that was enough to question whether he had interfered in the process. The team filed the protest later that afternoon, within the protest time limit.
The five-member Jury dismissed Emirates Team New Zealand’s protest.’
Spending five hours in a jury hearing on a day off didn’t seem to go down well with some, as the journalists and TV film crews who had set up camp outside the jury room discovered. According to those who witnessed the exit from the protest hearing, some in the Alinghi camp were not at all happy with having been cooped up in a meeting on their day off, defending a minor issue that in their view had already been decided by the measurement committee.
“I think it’s a completely frivolous protest that has wasted everybody’s time,” said Alinghi’s Grant Simmer.
The Kiwis on the other hand emerged from the hearing apparently relaxed and looking forward to a late lunch.
“I’m off to go and get something to eat,” said Emirates Team New Zealand’s Grant Dalton, smiling as he emerged from the hearing. “I’m a grinder, I need to eat!”
In the end, the Jury found that Alinghi had not infringed a rule when it was asked to lower its mainsail after yesterday’s race, but even that wasn’t as clear cut as many had expected.
“The majority of the Jury found that a rule had not been infringed, the inference therefore is that a minority thought that they did,” continued Dalton.
On the face of it the issue appears to be a storm in a tea cup, an onshore spat between the tow teams and yet the proceedings appear to have rattled Alinghi more than their opponents, an advantage perhaps for Dalton’s team.
While clearly frustrated, Simmer took an alternative view.
“I think it’s great motivation, our guys are going to be really fired up tomorrow,” he said.
Either way, tomorrow (Friday) looks like shaping up to be another revealing day with a solid 15-18 knot sea breeze forecasted. Until recently many believed that the Kiwi boat would be less potent in such conditions while SUI100 would be more suited to stronger breeze. But there are some who feel that NZL92 with her new, long ‘Buzzy Bee’ keel could have shifted the performance of the boat up the wind range.
With the score at 2:2, the America’s Cup starts again.
RESULTS AFTER DAY 4
Alinghi – 2
Emirates Team New Zealand – 2
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