America’s Cup defender Oracle Team USA loses two points in the “first to nine” America’s Cup Match
Oracle Team USA will lose the first two points they score in the America’s Cup Match. This means they would need to win 11 races to score the nine points needed to win the America’s Cup Match. Emirates Team New Zealand still needs to win nine races to score nine points and to win the Match.
America’s Cup sailor penalties – even worse than the lost points?
OTUSA’s key sailor, wing trimmer Dirk de Ridder, is forbidden to sail and is excluded from all activities for the remainder of this America’s Cup. This may be even more significant than losing two points. The team work between the helmsman and the wing trimmer is crucial – the helmsman has the steering wheel and the wing trimmer controls the accelerator.
Additional penalties for the America’s Cup defender
But wait, there’s more… Sailor Matt Mitchell must sit out the first four races. Two members of the shore crew – Andrew Walker and Bryce Ruthenberg are excluded from all activities. The team must pay a $250,000 fine.
Why were penalties assessed? Why in the America’s Cup?
- Racing a modified “one design” AC45 is forbidden. It does not matter if the modification actually improved performance or reliability.
- Even though the AC45s are not raced in the America’s Cup Match, the America’s Cup World Series was defined in the Protocol as being part of the America’s Cup Event. The Protocol also requires each team “use its best efforts” to avoid “any act or conduct” … “that may impair public confidence in the honest and orderly conduct of the America’s Cup.
- The Protocol empowers the Jury to order the “loss of existing or future points, scores or races”
Background and details
An international jury found that Oracle Team USA illegally modified their AC45 catamarans for the America’s Cup World Series. The “kingposts” of OTUSA’s AC45 catamarans were lengthened, reinforced and had weight added, all illegal under the strict “one design” rule for the AC45. (Note that the AC72 catamarans used in the America’s Cup are not one design and different rules apply to determine if an AC72 complies with the AC72 Class Rule.)
By putting weight in the kingposts instead of in the “permitted zone” shown in the diagram above, OTUSA may have improved their performance since the weight forward would lift the stern – an advantage in lighter winds.
Evidence presented to the Jury showed that lengthening the kingpost would improve performance by increasing headstay tension and allowing better sail shapes, especially upwind. Lengthening the kingpost “spigot” as shown in the photo below would increase reliability and add weight.