The AC version of the British 'parlimentary question time' continued when Regatta Director Iain Murray met the media on Wednesday morning to address issues raised in the protests filed by Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Challenge head on.
In the best tradition of the "knock-about" question time, where the opposing sides deny any claim of the other. Murray says claims that his 37 Safety Rules are changing the game one week before the regatta are baseless.
“I made these recommendations to the teams on May 22, over six weeks before the first race of the Louis Vuitton Cup,” he said. “At that meeting, all of the teams agreed to all 37 of the safety recommendations. Grant Dalton (managing director of Emirates Team New Zealand) walked to the front of the room, shook my hand, and told me, ‘Good job. You won’t get any pushback from us.’”
But on June 28, Emirates Team New Zealand filed a protest with the International Jury over the changes. Yesterday afternoon, Luna Rossa Challenge did the same.
Murray also states plainly that claims saying that the Italian and Kiwi boats would not measure as AC72s and are thus ineligible to race are false. He says the official measurers have informed him that both Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand are fully able to comply with the AC72 Class Rule.
“They can race on the first day, Sunday July 7, with their equipment as it is now because it already meets the minimum requirements set out in my Safety Rules,” he said.
“So this isn’t about teams not being able to comply. This is about two teams trying to gain an advantage from changes I’ve implemented to make all of our racing safer.”
On the issue that seems to be most contentious to some of the teams, the requirement to have deeper rudders with larger winglets, Murray says these are important Safety Rules.
“This to give crews more control. The new Safety Rules allows the angle of the rudder winglets to be adjusted up to five minutes before a race instead of by 8.00am on race days.”
That allows for a more precise setting in the prevailing wind conditions at start time. What the teams are protesting about now are features they had previously requested.
“Dean Barker, the skipper of Emirates Team New Zealand, emailed me in December of last year asking for the period when teams could adjust the rudder elevators (wings) to be extended from when they left the dock in the morning (under the original class rule) until up to the warning signal for racing (as it is now, under the Safety Recommendations),” Murray continued. “He suggested the boat would be safer, and easier to control, if the final adjustment could be made just before the race start.
“When the Safety Review Panel met with the teams in May, all of them acknowledged that deeper rudders, with larger wings, add more control. Luna Rossa Challenge wiped out twice at 36 knots of speed during training because they lost control and rounded up head to wind. More surface area increases control.”
“Now can you see why I’m frustrated?” he asked.
The protests say that Murray exceeded his authority in imposing the changes to the Class Rule without the unanimous consent of the teams. Murray said that when mediation failed he had no choice but to proceed with the safety recommendations.
“I was appointed Regatta Director by the challengers, and accepted in that role by the defender. I work on behalf of all the teams,” Murray explained. “In this case, I’m really saving the teams from themselves. Not one team likes all of the recommendations.
“Disappointingly, for competitive reasons, two of the teams are now protesting over some of these safety recommendations. But I don’t believe you can pick and choose. These safety recommendations are a package and together they increase safety for our sailors and they are now Rules of the event.”
The International Jury is scheduled to hear the Emirates Team New Zealand protest beginning on Monday July 8. There is no schedule yet for the Luna Rossa protest.
Racing in the Louis Vuitton Cup to choose the challenger is scheduled to start on 7 July.
4 July 2013 8:02 GMT