The America's Cup has at least temporarily resolved a controversy that led to one team boycotting its first race as safety recommendations issued by race director Iain Murray were struck down by an international jury Thursday.
Murray issued 37 recommendations after the May 9 death of Artemis Racing team member Andrew “Bart” Simpson. Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa joined together to protest the last-minute changes, and Luna Rossa boycotted its scheduled match against New Zealand on Sunday.
The effect of the decision on the race itself should be minimal, as both Luna Rossa and New Zealand are in compliance with the original safety rules, and Oracle Team USA had said it was ready to go either way.
The only team in question is Artemis, which is still working to repair its vessel following the accident.
New Zealand managing director Grant Dalton said an exception ought to be made for Artemis if needed.
“Emirates Team New Zealand is more than happy to give them dispensation for that because they've had a hard time,” he said following the decision. “They're trying really hard to get back on the water. We want them back on the water for the event, so whatever it is that's necessary to let them get back on the water should be allowed to happen.”
Luna Rossa has yet to decide whether it supports making an exception for Artemis.
“You should build the boat for the rule you're under,” Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena said.
Dalton called the jury's ruling significant.
“Rules are rules,” he said. “We've relied on certain rules that have been there for two years, and they're intact and the integrity of the America's Cup is intact.”
“We've basically gained the integrity of the sport in terms of the positioning of the rules, in that rules are rules,” he said. “The class rule stays intact and can't be just tampered with, particularly this close to an event. I don't think there's a performance gain here at all, but we've relied on certain rules that have been there for two years, and they're intact and the integrity of the America's Cup is intact.”
The next step for Murray, who said he was disappointed in the decision, is to talk to each of the teams and to the Coast Guard, which had worked with Murray on the recommendations, to discuss the decision and where the event goes from here.
Murray said Artemis has told him that it can comply with either the existing rules or the 37 recommendations, but not both.
He had yet to meet with the team at the time of his news conference immediately after the announcement of the decision.
Murray said the matter was not yet resolved, however.
“The class rule can allow teams to use small rudders,” Murray said, referring to the rudder elevators that help teams control the vessels during maneuvers. “I think it's very clear that my recommendations don't like that, and that's the issue that needs to be resolved.”
He said it was too early to say what sort of exception or dispensation would be allowed for Artemis, pending a discussion with all teams involved.
The Louis Vuitton Cup challengers series will finally see two boats facing off for the first time Saturday when Luna Rossa meets New Zealand.
While the first three races were solo, the impact on the standings should be minimal as all three challengers will advance to either the Vuitton Cup semifinals or finals after the round-robin series.
Louis Vuitton Cup standings
(Points after three races)
1. Emirates Team New Zealand 2
2. Luna Rossa 1
3. Artemis Racing 0
• Luna Rossa vs. Emirates Team New Zealand, 12:15 p.m.
• Emirates Team New Zealand vs. Artemis Racing, 12:15 p.m.
• Luna Rossa vs. Artemis Racing, 12:15 p.m.
Note: Artemis' boat is not expected to be ready to race until later in July.