Yachting: Kiwi to mediate in Cup row

By Paul Lewis

Emirates Team New Zealand are in a dispute with Artemis. Photo / Getty Images
Emirates Team New Zealand are in a dispute with Artemis. Photo / Getty Images

A New Zealander is one of two sailing experts on the mediation panel which will try to get the warring America's Cup teams in San Francisco to agree on how and when the regatta will proceed - but the whole process could take at least another week.

Graham McKenzie, a former partner at law firm Bell Gully in Auckland, sailed competitively in keelboats. He has been a jury member at two previous Cups. He was called as an expert witness in 2009 by then America's Cup holder Alinghi in their ill-fated defence of a court case brought by Oracle. The latter won the right to challenge Alinghi and lifted the Cup, paving the way for the current regatta. McKenzie is a director of several public companies, was also deputy chairman of Saint Kentigern Trust Board and a trustee of the Bruce McLaren Trust.

The other member of the mediation panel is Briton Bryan Willis - a world-renowned racing rules expert (who published a book on the same last year) who is well-regarded on all sides. He has been on the International Sailing Federation racing rules committee for 25 years.

Their role will be to encourage the teams to reach agreement on the format of the regatta - currently in dispute after the recent capsize by Artemis, causing the death of sailor Andrew Simpson.

Emirates Team New Zealand are upset at Artemis' decision to withdraw from the early rounds of the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger series, only beginning competitive sailing in the semifinals. ETNZ and Luna Rossa suggested postponing a start to the regatta to July 19, ditching the semifinals, with the top two in a three-boat round robin to go through to the Louis Vuitton final. The winner of the final takes on Oracle in the Cup match.

However, Artemis' refusal to agree to that threatens to turn the regatta into a farce where ETNZ and Luna Rossa will be left to sail only five races on their own while Artemis get to grips with their new catamaran, not turning up to race until August 6. ETNZ are disputing Artemis' right to make such a call, saying that such decisions are usually made along with the wishes of a majority of the challengers.

If the mediation process doesn't work, the matter will go before the five-man jury, which comprises McKenzie, Willis, British international judge and umpire John Doerr, Josje Hofland, an umpire and judge from the Netherlands and David Tillett - an Australian lawyer, sailing judge and international jury member at past America's Cups and four Olympic Games.

However, the mediation process will not begin until Wednesday (NZT) and may not be decided until Friday, at which stage the jury will be called on to decide. If the jury process goes beyond that weekend, it could be June 24 before a decision is made. The regatta is set to open on July 4 with the first race set for July 7.

- Herald on Sunday

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