Yachting: Legal action hanging over Cup

By Paul Lewis

Regatta director Iain Murray (right), with Francesco Longanesi Cattani of the Luna Rossa team, one of four syndicates which met yesterday. Photo / AP
Regatta director Iain Murray (right), with Francesco Longanesi Cattani of the Luna Rossa team, one of four syndicates which met yesterday. Photo / AP

The America's Cup regatta may begin in just over seven weeks - but the possibility of civil legal action after the death of Artemis sailor Andrew Simpson remains.

What was clear from the aftermath of yesterday's meeting of Cup teams is that there is a will to proceed.

No one was speaking for Artemis, who have not yet announced their future in the event, but all four teams met yesterday, with Artemis represented by team boss Paul Cayard.

Iain Murray, regatta director, chief executive of America's Cup Race Management (ACRM) and chairman of the committee set up to review the Cup's safety measures, said: "No team said anything but continue apace [with the regatta]. We have every reason to believe all four teams will be competing."

Murray and Tom Ehman, vice-commodore of the Golden Gate Yachting Club (the trustee for this America's Cup) also spoke confidently about the timeframe.

Murray said: "I would say this will happen shorter rather than longer. I would think we would have something significant to say within a couple of weeks."

The committee includes noted sailor and Emirates Team NZ director and legal counsel, Jim Farmer QC, but it is the San Francisco Police Department and Coast Guard who hold the official legal cards.

The police inquiry into Simpson's death will examine whether there are any circumstances that might lead to criminal charges. The Coast Guard are yet to license the event (and wouldn't have done so in normal circumstances at this stage anyway); they will wait to see what the committee recommends in safety terms for training and racing the 72-foot (22m) catamarans.

America's Cup insiders seem confident there will be no official repercussions from Artemis' accident. They would not be talking about sticking to the Cup schedule and having "significant" things to say in a fortnight otherwise.

The unexpressed thinking from Cup sources is that a civil action is quite possible - but will not be enough to halt the regatta.

That gels with what is known so far about the Artemis accident:

•It involved their first, originally a non-foiling boat, not the boat they were planning to race.

•Foiling - the art of lifting the boat out of the water for greater speed - seems the way to go. Teams who have worked on it report the faster they go, the more stable the boat.

•As early reports indicate the problem appears to be with the structural build of Artemis' first boat, the review may give the boats as clean a bill of health as can be expected for yachts that fly as close to the edge as the AC72s. It would be a different story if the review demonstrated that there were inherently unsafe qualities common to all of the giant catamarans.

•Neither is the review likely to find that the venue and conditions contained inherently unsafe elements. The wind was moderate at the time of the capsize, the sea conditions were not dangerous.

That could be why Ehman could say yesterday: "The America's Cup will go ahead this summer. We will see the world's best sailors racing at the highest level on one of the most iconic race tracks in sport."

- NZ Herald

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