Unresolved Issues for AC 34

Sadly, in the modern era of America’s Cup racing, contentiousness between competitors off the water has sometimes been more explosive than on the race course. America’s Cup 34 seems to be following that trend.

On June 24th, a mere two weeks before the first scheduled race, the three challenging teams (Emirates Team New Zealand, Luna Rossa Challenge, Artemis Racing) and the defender (Oracle Team USA) are in a deadlock over proposed rule changes. After four days of formal arbitration last week with two international sailing judges, “a couple of points” are still unresolved.

While that language sounds only minimally troubling, some Cup experts believe the teams are so firmly entrenched in their positions, that the matter may end up in a New York (home of the original Deed of Gift) courtroom. Adding to the uncertainty is the fact that Regatta Director Iain Murray has already submitted all 37 safety recommendations in question to the Coast Guard as part of the Marine Event Permit application, yet given the specificity of the rules previously established for AC 34, there is some question as to whether Murray has the authority to demand such changes and enhancements.

For those readers who are less than obsessed with all things AC, let us clarify the backstory: In the aftermath of the death of Artemis crewman Andrew Simpson on May 9, a special panel of experts was formed to study the tragedy. The 37 recommendations mentioned above resulted from the panel’s findings.

Although the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA) has not specified which recommendations are at issue, several news sources have revealed that the proposed addition of “rudder elevators” to the AC72s is the most hotly contested issue. You won’t find that term in a basic sailing book, but in plain English it refers to adjustable horizontal trim tabs that would be added to each rudder in order to help stabilize the AC72s when foiling.

The way we understand it, the original AC72 class rules call for fixed angles for daggerboard foils and rudders. But being able to actively adjust the angle of attack of those elements would seem to be a good thing, as running without them would be like trying to take off and land a plane without flaps. However, conjecture on the docks is that Emirates and Luna Rossa are objecting because they have apparently developed methods to control their boats without rudder elevators, even when hydrofoiling. Furthermore, because Artemis doesn’t expect to be ready to compete until late July, and Oracle Team USA won’t have to face any boat in competition until the actual America’s Cup begins in early September, those teams would have an unfair length of time for development and experimentation before competing.

Yeah, it’s a mess. But with so many millions of dollars invested thus far, we can only hope that an 11th-hour compromise can be agreed to, so the show can go on as planned.

On a brighter note, shoreside infrastructure is ready to receive thousands of Cup fans for the opening day ceremonies on July 4. There’s all sorts of cool stuff to check out there, including poster signings with the crews, films, and official merchandise. Also, the newly constructed performance venue at Piers 27/29 has already held several sold-out shows, and upcoming acts are expected to be equally successful.

The much-anticipated July 5 fleet race appears on the just-released schedule of first week events, and if they actually run it, it may prove to be one of the most thrilling parts of the whole summer’s calendar, as it will be the one and only AC72 fleet competition of the summer. (Fleet races during last summer’s AC World Series proved much more thrilling for spectators than match racing.)

According to the master schedule, the first race of the Louis Vuitton challenger series will be July 7, between ETNZ and LRC. Although both July 9 and 11 are titled ‘race days’, even in the latest schedule, mention of an actual contest is absent on those days. By contrast, the master calendar shows Artemis vs ETNZ on the 9th, and Artemis vs LRC on the 11th, but the Swedish team has already made it clear that they will be a no-show. Our understanding is that their would-be opponent would still have to run the course to score a win, but at this point, it’s anybody’s guess if that’s still true. Meanwhile, pre-sold tickets for all races through the Louis Vuitton Semi-Finals have been refunded. Stay tuned for updates and more schedule changes — no doubt there will be plenty of them.

Courtesy of Andy/latitude38.com

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