AmericaOne New Zealand Chronicles:
A well-deserved day off, for most
About The Challenge
Daily Report - Monday, October 25, 1999 -
Today was a well-deserved day off for most of the AmericaOne team. Not, however, for our "boat doctors" including Shore Team Manager Brad Fitzgerald, USA 49 Captain Josh Belsky and Principle Designer Bruce Nelson and their colleagues. Since Saturday afternoon they have been working nearly 'round-the-clock' assessing then repairing the extensive damage to 49's hull caused by Stars & Stripes in Race 9.
No rest either for weather guru Roger "Clouds" Badham. With racing set to resume Wednesday he continues to be glued to his computer all day working with his various predictive models. Nor for Director of Marketing Gina von Esmarch. She also handles media relations, and Gina's phone rings even more than ever on non-race days with reporters looking for interviews with Paul, John Kostecki, et al., or looking for the latest info on the re-build of 49. COO "Boodah" Bob Billingham is off to California tonight to give long-promised talks at San Diego, Newport Harbor and St. Francis Yacht Clubs later this week, so Gina, Videographer Vince Casalaina and Photographer Sharon Green have been working with Bob on his presentations. And John Kostecki and I spent a good bit of the day on rules matters, because....
The major news of the day came from the jury office. First, there was a protest by the jury against Stars & Stripes under racing rule 14 -- "Avoiding Contact" -- as a result of their crashing into us on Saturday. But weren't they penalized on the water by the umpires? Yes, and deservedly so. The on-the-water penalty was for breaking the relevant right-of-way rule (windward yacht must keep clear of a leeward yacht), akin to running a red light. But there is also the collision-avoidance rule that says a boat shall avoid contact with another boat if reasonably possible. This of this as the rule against "reckless driving accident resulting" -- much worse than just running a red light. Protests under this collision-avoidance rule are handled in the traditional way, after the race, on shore, before a panel of umpires called "the jury" (or, down here, if you don't like their decision, "the bloody jury").
When we sought redress from the jury Saturday night (to get time to repair our boats before having to race again), we considered also protesting Stars & Stripes under the collision rule. Even though such protest would have been more than justified, we decided not to. We were confident they had not done it intentionally, their team had been profusely and publicly apologetic, and they had offered to help pay for the re-hab. So, we didn't want to make an even bigger deal out of it.
But the umpires (on-the-water traffic cops, so to speak) or jury (think of them as the senior umpires who comprise the traffic court back on shore) can also bring such a protest. Indeed, this is what happened. The hearing was today, and the decision was to deduct a half-point from Stars & Stripes cumulative score. Saturday night they had nicked Nippon (Peter Gilmour) for a half-point, after "Crash" Gilmour had unjustifiably collided with the Spanish.
A half point does not sound like much, but it could be the difference between making and not making the semi-finals. Moreover, we can now assume that the "reckless driving" penalty will be two points in RR2 when each win is worth four points, and 4.5 points in RR3 (nine points for each win).
Today's other news came from the jury. America True -- Dawn Riley's team -- sought to have a re-opening of the jury decision which gave us time to fix 49 by postponing Sunday's races to this coming Wednesday. True petitioned to call off Wednesday's races and have them tacked on to the beginning of RR2. Why? There is a "no change" rule which says that during a round robin a team cannot make significant changes to the boat (except to effect repairs). America True and other teams would like to get on with modifying their boat. So would we for that matter. And there is yet another rule that says if remaining races are tacked on to the start of the next round robin, the no-change rule is suspended. So you could get on with modifying your boat today (not have to wait until Wednesday night thereby gaining two full days), and then race the remaining RR1 races and all of the RR2 races in your new, hopefully faster, configuration. Well, that could be "more fair" for some than others, depending upon who already has and has not raced whom in RR1, and who had a "major mod" already planned between rounds 1 and 2. Today the jury wisely dismissed True's request to re-open the matter.
Any number of the sailors on our team would be more than capable of doing most of our rules work. Indeed John Kostecki and Gavin Brady are very knowledgeable, and they spend a good bit of their time working on this along with me. Likewise Paul who has fought and won a couple of big Am Cup rules battles, notably the bow-sprit case in '92. And when it comes to the class ("IACC") rule, Bruce Nelson, Chris Todter and Robert Hook are no slouches. But the sheer volume and detail of rules, interpretations and hearings requires someone full time staying on top of it all -- hence most teams have someone with judging/umpiring experience called, simply, "Rules Advisor."
With racing now confirmed for Wednesday, our entire team will be back at it full bore tomorrow. The 49 fix is proceeding apace. Hopefully it will be ready Tuesday night.
But even if 49 is ready, this postponed-race saga may not be over -- Clouds says Wednesday's weather looks marginal at best, and Thursday not much better. Another front is predicted, along with high winds. So if not Wednesday, we could be racing Thursday or even Friday. Stay tuned....
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