AC34: The Only Constant is Change

An America’s Cup that has already been marked by unprecedented change and tragedy appears destined to remain very much in a state of flux until well into the Louis Vuitton challenger elimination series, scheduled to begin July 7.
Author:
Publish date:

An America’s Cup that has already been marked by unprecedented change and tragedy remains very much in a state of flux—and seems destined to remain so until well into the Louis Vuitton challenger elimination series scheduled to begin July 7.

In the immediate wake of the May 9 death of Artemis strategist, British sailor Andrew “Bart” Simpson, America’s Cup Race Management (ACRM), the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA) and all four syndicates have found themselves walking a delicate line—on the one hand ensuring the regatta will go on as planned (or at least as close to planned as possible), on the other doing everything they can to ensure that an accident like the Artemis capsize doesn’t happen again.

With this in mind, on May 22 regatta director Iain Murray issued a set of 37 safety “recommendations,” which were soon accepted by both the Defender, Oracle Racing, and all three challengers, including Artemis, and will serve as a blueprint for additional changes moving forward.

 Training for the America's Cup

Training for the America's Cup

The recommendations call for everything from the installation of belay points and handholds that “effectively restrain crew through bearing-off maneuvers, severe deceleration or capsize” to a 10-knot reduction in the maximum wind limit for racing, and the creation of a formal testing process to ensure there is adequate strength in each team’s hulls, daggerboard controls and wings. (To see the complete set of recommendations, click here)

The recommendations also call for the mark boats that were used throughout the America’s World Series to be replaced by “soft marks,” so there will be one less thing that could possibly cause serious damage and/or injury in a close rounding situation. In the event of a capsize, the boat still sailing will not be required to complete the course, but automatically be declared the winner.

 Regatta director Ian Murray introduces safety measures

Regatta director Ian Murray introduces safety measures

One aspect of the recommendations that has prompted more than a little grumbling is a set of changes to the protocol and Louis Vuitton schedule that retains the regatta's original July 7 start date, but allow Artemis to abstain from racing until much later in the month.

Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) and Luna Rossa earlier suggested delaying the start of the regatta until July 19, at which point all three boats would be compelled to compete. But Challenger of Record Artemis vetoed the proposal, saying it needed more flexibility to ensure that its second boat—which it did not expect to launch until early July, was both safe and competitive. (To see the updated schedule, click here)

This prompted a flurry of charges and counter charges in which ETNZ managing director Grant Dalton first complained that the event was being geared to the needs of the “weakest common denominator,” after which Artemis shot back saying, “Dalton’s proposals benefit no team but his own, and his public insults are out of line and unsportsmanlike.”

 Team Oracle training

Team Oracle training

ETNZ is also not happy with the reduction in the upper wind limit, with rules advisor Russell Green recently wondering “how the All Blacks (rugby team) would feel arriving at the World Cup…to find that there were last minute proposals to change basic rules of the game in the name of player’s safety, but which in effect favored the slower stop/start style of the Northern Hemisphere teams?”

One positive sign: in the weeks following Simpson’s death, Oracle, Luna Rossa and ETNZ all seem to be successfully coming to grips with how to handle their AC72s out on the wind-swept and dangerous racetrack that is San Francisco Bay. Hopefully this is a sign that in the end, all the sadness, pain and recrimination has thus far marked the 34th America’s Cup will someday actually result in some satisfying racing. 

 Team Oracle

Team Oracle

Related

shutterstock_543237994

The Slow Route to Cabo

Each November, cruising boats start leaving California for “a winter of fun in the sun down Mexico way.” And having spent the summer and autumn on a leisurely passage down the West Coast on board Distant Drummer, our Liberty 458 sloop, my husband, Neil, and I were now in San ...read more

MHS-GMR_3549

New Multihulls 2018

Farrier F-22 New Zealander Ian Farrier ushered in a new genre of sailing with his folding-ama trailerable trimarans, the best-known of which are the Corsair designs. Farrier’s last project before he passed away last year was this sweet little tri. Available in three versions, ...read more

shutterstock_373701682

Cruising: Island Comeback

The U.S. Virgins Islands have surged back from the devastation of the 2017 hurricanes, with new infrastructure plans that will benefit charterers and cruisers alike. After hurricanes Irma and Maria roared through the Leeward Islands in September 2017, it was impossible to ...read more

albintoilet

Gear: Albin Pump Marine Toilet

Head Start Is there room for a new marine toilet? Albin Pump Marine thinks so, having just introduced its line of Swedish-built heads—ranging from compact to full-size models—to the American market. The toilets feature vitreous porcelain bowls and either wooden or thermoplastic ...read more

07n_45R2699

Multihull Sailor: Classic Cats

If you’re looking for a decent sub-40ft cruising cat, you have few choices when it comes to new-boat offerings. It is a well-known fact that the multihull market has taken off in a way very few could have predicted. Despite Hurricane Irma’s recent destruction of a large part of ...read more