Yachting: Change to wind speed rules could knock Team NZ

By Paul Lewis

Team New Zealand. Photo / Greg Bowker
Team New Zealand. Photo / Greg Bowker

There was a sentence from America's Cup Racing Management boss Iain Murray yesterday that will have raised the heart rates of the challengers and maybe particularly that of Emirates Team New Zealand.

Asked what sort of factors the review committee (chaired by Murray) would look at after the Andrew Simpson tragedy, Murray said: "We'll look at when we sail, the times [of the day] we sail and the winds."

Murray also pointed out that the committee, formed to review the training and racing of the AC72 yachts after the Artemis capsize, would be looking at all relevant matters.

But there has been a worry the fatal accident might change the game, allowing some competitors to gain an advantage. Team NZ and all syndicates are maintaining their silence out of respect and because no one wants to be seen to be politicising the tragedy or pursuing selfish interests. Teams are also in a difficult position if they oppose changes made in the name of safety - especially after a death publicised round the world.

Yesterday's announcement of the committee members was made with a spirit of unity. As Golden Gate Yacht Club vice-commodore Tom Ehman put it: "It has really brought us closer together." He said the tragedy had produced the "collegial" effect of the "America's Cup family, all trying to pull together to get through this terrible tragedy and make racing as safe as it can possibly be".

But problems may start if the committee tries to fiddle with the race wind speed parameters. It is set at 3-33 knots, but there are many who think that top level could be cut - even though wind speed did not seem to be a factor in Artemis' capsize.

That could benefit holders Oracle. Earlier this month, Emirates Team NZ chief Grant Dalton said Oracle, as defenders, had the comparative luxury of setting up their boat for the lighter airs expected in San Francisco in September, the time of the Cup regatta between the winner of the Louis Vuitton and the holder.

Team NZ and Luna Rossa, however, had to configure their boats to take in the breezier conditions of July-August in the challenger series.

However, if the committee does get to grips with sailing dates, times and winds, it may turn the regatta into more of a lighter airs contest than it is set down to be.

That would not go down well at Team NZ, frontrunners in the run-up to the regatta. They have consistently been the best foiling team and have demonstrated the hardest of all things to do with foiling - consistency.

They once even rocketed home to base on the horns of an approaching cyclone.

There was another sentence in the findings of the meeting between the four teams that piqued interest: "Some recommendations of the review committee will require the co-operation and support of competitors."

The America's Cup protocol decrees changes at this stage have to be unanimous. The teams may appear unanimous - but it is almost certain there will not be total unanimity behind closed doors.

Read more: Legal action hanging over Cup

- NZ Herald

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