Yachting: Wind limits likely to be lowered for Cup racing

By Dana Johannsen

Safety recommendations seen as 'prudent and reasonable' by leader of Team NZ.

Emirates Team New Zealand. Photo / File
Emirates Team New Zealand. Photo / File

A committee investigating the death of an America's Cup sailor this month has announced a set of sweeping safety recommendations, including dropping the race wind limits by a significant margin.

But despite fears a reduction in the allowable wind range would disadvantage Team New Zealand, who made certain trade-offs with their design of their AC72 to ensure they had a reliable boat in heavy conditions, leader Grant Dalton has come out in support of the recommendations.

Under the newly proposed guidelines the wind limits would be reduced from a maximum of 33 knots to 20 knots in July, 21 knots in August and 23 knots in September, with additional wind limit adjustments for tide and sea state.

Dalton said the independent review findings following the death of Artemis sailor Andrew Simpson in a training accident two weeks ago are "prudent and reasonable".

Regatta director Iain Murray issued a list of 37 recommendations to the four competing teams and America's Cup authorities at a meeting in San Francisco yesterday, following the investigations of an independent review committee. The review committee stopped short of making its own recommendations as it is understood they were unable to get liability insurance, so it falls to Murray to deliver the changes.

Many of the recommendations are intended to increase the personal safety of the sailors and they include buoyancy aids, body armour, crew locator devices, hands-free breathing apparatus and high-visibility helmets.

The committee also recommended that all teams be required to complete a "competent third-party review or testing process" of the structural integrity of the platform and wing of the high-speed, high-risk catamarans.

The push for further testing of the boats appears to confirm reports the fatal Artemis capsize was a result of a major structural failing, although the Swedish team continue to remain tight-lipped on the cause.

Artemis chief executive Paul Cayard yesterday asked for patience while the team conducts its own internal review.

"I understand that frustration exists out there because questions remain about the accident. It was, however, a complex event. We want to give it the time, respect and professionalism it deserves," he said.

Cayard said the team had yet to make a decision over whether they will compete in this year's event, stating Artemis will only race if they believe they are safe to do so.

The measures announced by Murray yesterday are recommendations only. All points are now up for discussion among the teams.

America's Cup authorities will also form a number of task forces to define additional technical recommendations for specific safety items such as protective gear for sailors.

Stephen Barclay, the chief executive of the America's Cup, said the safety plan is a necessary com-ponent of the permit application submitted to the Coast Guard.

Team New Zealand's AC72 is ready to be relaunched, with a shakedown sail planned in San Francisco today before restarting the training and development tomorrow.


Key recommendations

• Wind limits reduced to 20 knots in July, 21 knots in August, and 23 knots in September.
• The teams are required to complete a "competent third party review or testing process" of the structural integrity of the platform and wing.
• Improved safety gear for the sailors include buoyancy aids, body armour, crew locator devices, hands-free breathing apparatus and high visibility helmets.
• Reducing the number of qualifying races to allow more time for boat maintenance.
• The removal of fines for teams who choose to withdraw from a race due to safety concerns.

- NZ Herald

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