Two formal submissions by teams competing in the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, claiming that the race organizers had breached protocol by changing one of the strict Volvo Open 70 measurement rules, have been dismissed by an independent arbitration panel. Two applications were made to the arbitration panel claiming the Volvo Open 70 Rule Interpretation Group (VIG) had, in interpreting a class rule, changed that rule, something that is not permitted by the class rules and the Volvo Ocean Race Notice of Race.
The first application, made jointly by Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG on October 11, was followed up the next day by a near-identical submission from Team Telefónica.
The applications related to a specific ruling by the Volvo Interpretation Group (VIG) – the panel of experts responsible for providing official clarification on the precise meaning of measurement rules.
Specifically, the three teams believed that the VIG had overstepped its jurisdiction by interpreting Volvo Open 70 Class rule 10.1.9, in such a way as to change another rule, 10.1.6, which outlaws the use of any kind of adjustable standing rigging on the yachts.
At the heart of the collective application is believed to be the forestay system employed on the CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand boat, which the Abu Dhabi, PUMA and Telefónica purported is adjustable and could give CAMPER an unfair advantage during the 39,000 nautical mile race around the world.
The independent arbitration panel was chaired by British ISAF International Judge and arbitration specialist, Bryan Willis, who called on Australia’s David Tillet, an ISAF International Judge and Chairman of the ISAF Racing Rules Committee, along with Brian McKenzie a barrister at law and solicitor from New Zealand, to help him make a ruling.
Before deliberating on the matter, the expert team requested written submissions from all interested parties. Input was subsequently provided by PUMA, Groupama sailing team and the VIG chairman Andy Claughton. A response from CAMPER by Emirates Team New Zealand rules advisor Russell Green included a statement by co-skipper Stuart Bannatyne. No oral hearing took place.