Monday, August 8, 2011

America's Cup Umpire Explains

Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) simply followed the rules when they continued racing after a crew member flew off the back off their AC45 during Day 1 of the America’s Cup World Series which kicked off last Saturday in Cascais, Portugal. And, they didn’t get disqualified.


Because the America’s Cup has its own rules, of course (available on the Cup website).

Mike Martin, ACs Director of Umpiring and Rules, explained, “We have our own rules that say, ‘A yacht shall not permit any person on board to intentionally leave unless ill or injured.’ It was pretty clear it wasn’t intentional so there was no penalty assessed. If in the event of a capsize, it says, ‘A person leaving shall not be accepted on board nor replaced during a race.’ Team NZ did exactly what they were supposed to do according to the rules which is you leave the person in the water for the team rib to come pick them up.”

Martin also set the record straight on the DQ hit that Oracle Racing’s Spithill took over the weekend. Spithill was originally penalized for sailing outside the course limits - their purpose being is that in the past AC boats would sail on the same tack for 15 minutes during which time everyone leaves or changes the channel.

“We want them tacking and interfacing each other across the tack so we have relatively narrow course limits,” Martin said. “We also have course limits around the starting area so people don’t go sailing off in or near the spectator fleet then come back in.”

Jimmy sailed outside of the course limits prior between the prep signal which is at two minutes and the start and was assessed a penalty at that time. You can’t take your penalty until after starting, and according to Martin, Spithill started and didn’t take his penalty at which time he was assessed s second penalty - an umpire can do that for breaking the rule of failure to take a penalty.

“The equipment was working (contrary to what has been said), and all video shows the indicator light on - you’ll have to ask him what went on,” Martin said.

The speed trial, which ETNZ won, was reported by spectators and online viewers to be difficult to figure out, perhaps due to the commentary. According to Martin it was set up like a regular speed trial with a start line and approximately 500 meters away a finish like. Boats had a one minute time slot and they’re supposed to start in the first 30 seconds of that time slot and come full speed across the start.

“I think everyone’s kind of scratching their head on the time trial and figuring it out,” Martin said. “It’s funny because I watched the TV feed of it and it all looks like it’s highly organized but it was tough to figure out and tough for the sailors to figure it out where the course was and there were spectator boats on the course but we got it all straightened out in the nick of time. “

The speed trial will continue to be an element of the World Series events, Martin confirmed. “I think everyone enjoyed it, it was good to watch. It was kind of cool, even though the conditions weren’t ideal - it was the lightest wind of the day.”

Other than that, Martin’s pleased with the way things are going. “So, so far so good. The first day was a little bit of a bummer because it was light air and rainy and of course today, the lay day, is perfect…blowing 25 and sunny…will probably be the same tomorrow (another lay day).

In the week up to it there were plenty of little problems we were working through and we were concerned. We had some software crashes during a race but everyone’s been working super hard here to get everything going. It was GO day on Saturday and everything came together.”

Photo credit: Emirates Team New Zealand

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