Team NZ protest unlikely to succeed - commentators

By Paul Lewis

Team New Zealand's protest against an incident which occurred at the end of race four in the America's Cup overnight is unlikely to be successful, according to commentators.

Alinghi won today's race by 30 seconds to square the series at 2-2 but the protest could, in theory, turn the scoreline into 3-1 to Team New Zealand.

That's the theory - but the reality will not be seen until today in Valencia (9pm NZT) when the race jury considers the protest after a strange sequence of events at the end of race four, won comfortably by Alinghi by 30s.

Yachting commentator Rod Slater told Newstalk ZB: "It is hard to know what the outcome is going to be. Quite frankly, my gut feeling is that it will be a non-event, that the points will stay as they are."

Fellow commentator Peter Lester told nzherald.co.nz: "I don't think there will be a change, I think Alinghi are going to survive this protest."

It was the first appearance in the Cup match of the infamous rules and technicalities - but it may be unlikely to rob Alinghi of the race or even force a re-sail.

The incident occurred at the end of the race when race director Peter Reggio called on both boats to demonstrate they could lower their mainsails correctly - after which an Alinghi crewman climbed the mast.

Alinghi strategist Murray Jones explained their side of the story after officials had elected to do a random measurement check on the Swiss boat.

"One was to ensure that the mainsail can release off the main halyard lock without any assistance," he said.

"So with the big waves we asked the guy whether we could put the halyard on loosely so the whole thing didn't fall down and break battens and damage stuff when you actually do release it. So we tripped it off and that was that."

Cup rules state that a mainsail must be capable of being dropped without sending a man up the mast. If the measurers, upon inspection, discover that the mainsail cannot be lowered without sending a man aloft, that is a breach of a class rule - and carries the potential for disqualification.

However, Alinghi skipper Brad Butterworth said that the issue was a 'random' inquiry by the measurers who discovered that the sail was capable of being lowered according to the rules. "End of story," he said.

Once the technical issue is found to be resolved, there can be no protest and no punishment, so Alinghi's victory appeared to stand.

However, Team New Zealand then followed that with a protest lodged just before the protest deadline and again centring on the mast.

There did seem to be questions remaining around the incident. Reggio looked serious when he made the call to the boats.

Team NZ skipper Dean Barker said his syndicate had faith in the measurement committee to ensure the rules were enforced.

"We don't need to put a halyard on or need to send anyone up to drop a mainsail," he said.

"We are pretty happy with the system we've got."

In addition, Alinghi asked the host broadcaster covering the event, with a crew in a boat behind the yachts, to drop back towards the end of the race.

However, Alinghi's victory over Team New Zealand was flawlessly executed, with the Swiss team winning the start, maintaining good position throughout as they controlled the race, giving Team New Zealand no opportunities to attack.

It may seem unfair to have docked Alinghi the race for such a technical fault which had no bearing on it. But, rules are rules and the America's Cup has been known to fall deep into controversy when the letter of the law is rigidly applied.

- with NZPA, NZHERALD STAFF, NEWSTALK ZB

Full coverage of the America's Cup from nzherald.co.nz/americascup and desktoptv.co.nz

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