Rules at the heart of America's Cup dispute

By Dana Johannsen, in San Francisco

Herald sailing reporter Dana Johannsen looks at the dispute which is stalling an actual start to the America's Cup regatta.

The long and storied history of the America's Cup has included many bitter rules disputes, and 2013 is no exception.

Today the international jury will be called into action once more to rule on the most contentious issue of this Cup cycle so far, which has set the tone for an acrimonious summer of racing in San Francisco.

What's the issue here?
After the tragic loss of Artemis crew member Andrew Simpson in a training accident two months ago, America's Cup officials formed a review committee charged with improving safety for the event. Once the review was complete, regatta director Iain Murray sought to implement 37 new safety recommendations. One included changes to the rudder specifications, which would mean altering the design rule just a week from the start of competition in the Louis Vuitton challenger series. Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa claim this will unfairly advantage Cup defenders Oracle.

Team New Zealand's argument
Team New Zealand's protest boils down to one key point - they believe Murray has exceeded his jurisdiction by imposing unilateral changes to the design rule.

One of the fundamental pillars of any America's Cup is the class rule, which is proposed by the defender and accepted by the challenger when they enter. Article 4 in the AC72 class rule states changes can only be made with the unanimous consent of competitors - as has been done more than a dozen times in this Cup.

The Kiwi team will test whether Murray has the authority to alter the governing documents in the name of safety, when the word "safety" does not appear anywhere in the 43 pages of the Protocol.

America's Cup race management's argument
The response from regatta director Murray is likely to centre around Article 16 of the Protocol, which requires teams to comply with "all applicable rules and regulations of any city, state, national or governmental authority having jurisdiction over the event or part thereof".

Having included the 37 recommendations in their application to the US Coastguard for a marine event permit, which was subsequently granted, Murray will argue they effectively become requirements for the teams.

As Murray announced last week, if anything changes in his safety plan, he must immediately notify the Coastguard and make an assessment of the overall safety of the event. His view is that racing will not be safe if his rudder stipulations are not upheld by the jury and the regatta will have to be cancelled.

- NZ Herald

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