Team NZ happy with amended Am Cup protocol

HAPPIER: Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton is pleased potential America's Cup challengers have gained "some democracy".
HAPPIER: Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton is pleased potential America's Cup challengers have gained "some democracy".

Team New Zealand are pleased potential America's Cup challengers have gained "some democracy" in swift amendments made to the protocol for the next regatta.

Holders Oracle and Australian challenger of record, Hamilton Island Yacht Club, yesterday announced some key alterations to the 78-page document that was released last week.

They include:

- All teams getting a vote in the appointment process of the regatta director and his race officials. Initially, that responsibility lay with the holders and the challenger of record.

- The competitor forum can also remove or change officials, requiring a 75 per cent vote to effect that change.

- The competitor forum will also appoint the chief measurer and his committee as well as the umpiring team.

- The competitor forum will now have a say in how the new three-person arbitration panel - controversially replacing the five-person international jury - will be chosen. The first member of the panel will be selected by Oracle and the challenger of record. The competitor forum will select the second member and the first two members will select a third.

- The America's Cup organisers have backed away on plans to have a right of refusal on any sailor competing in one of their events, sailing in other regattas.

Team New Zealand were particularly vocal about the last point, telling Fairfax Media last weekend they were concerned that Olympic gold medal prospects such as Peter Burling and Blair Tuke could be affected by mean-minded officials.

Oracle adjusted the wording of the clause in the protocol to cover "teams" rather than individuals requiring permission to contest non-America's Cup events.

The other u-turns are significant given that the challengers were expected to help pay the officials involved in all of the areas yet have no say in their appointment.

Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton emphasised that his organisation never really saw a major problem with Oracle getting to build two boats as opposed to the challengers being allowed only one.

That had been seized on early by the media as an anomaly but they had felt there were bigger issues in the protocol's fine print.

Several of those had been quickly addressed as the formal entry period opened on Monday with teams needing to decide by August 8 if they will be involved.

"We are pleased that there is movement around other things like some democracy over key positions," Dalton said.

He pointed out that challengers would still be paying the wages of those people "but we get to set the budget".

Dalton believed the International Sailing Federation, the sport's world governing body, needed to offer its views on the protocol which has affected its input compared to previous Cups.

"Oracle has called them out and they need to make a statement," Dalton said. "They need to make their position known rather than staying quiet on all this."

Team New Zealand still have a major issue over the US$2 million (NZ$2.35 million) entry fee that needs to be made in two instalments by August 8 and December 1 as well as the US$1 insurance bond that must be paid by December.

They maintain that is crippling for a commercially driven team.

Meanwhile, Sir Ben Ainslie, part of Oracle's winning crew last year, is expected to formally announce his British challenge overnight.