America's Cup deadlock ahead of regatta start

Last updated 05:00 23/06/2013
Andrew Simpson
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ANDREW SIMPSON: Pictured with his infant son Freddie after winning silver at last year's London Olympics.

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The America's Cup syndicates remain deadlocked over the revamped format of the looming regatta and it appears increasingly likely the full International Jury will be called to San Francisco this week to sort out the mess.

Two members of that jury, New Zealander Graham McKenzie and Briton Bryan Willis, have been in mediation talks with the syndicates since Thursday.

The deafening silence around those discussions - there hasn't been a public word from the teams or the regatta organisers - means a stalemate remains in the quest to find a majority agreement on alterations to the original protocol.

While most of the safety components of the 37 recommendations made following the training death of Artemis Racing's Andrew Simpson have met with approval, it is understood sticking points remain over the troubled Swedish syndicate pulling out of the round-robin phase of the challenger series and moves to bring race start times forward, further lightening the wind range.

The wind issue, coming on top of the upper limit already being reduced by 10 knots, certainly won't please Team New Zealand and the Italians' Luna Rossa who have designed and successfully tested their 72-foot catamarans in breezes far exceeding what was required. They will see the latest moves as another handbrake while latitude is given to the under-pressure Swedes.

Sources told the Sunday Star-Times that "a lot is going on behind the scenes" to try to sort out this shambles.

Organisers are under mounting pressure to find a resolution with the first race set to start in just two weeks on July 7. The recommendations are an essential part of the racing permit still to be signed off by the US Coast Guard, whose concerns have risen after Simpson's death. Without the permit, there can be no racing.

The next step is to assemble the full five-person International Jury - chairman David Tillett (Australia), Josje Hofland (The Netherlands) and John Doerr (Great Britain) are the others - to resolve the outstanding issues. It has the power to make a binding decision on all parties.

So this 34th edition of the America's Cup finds itself in a legal minefield that has plagued so many regattas before it.

While the boardroom battles continue, the sailors continue to train on the San Francisco Bay.

Team New Zealand have been burning it up, turning heads with their speed and precision crew work.

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Luna Rossa and Oracle have been making the most of the favourable conditions as well, while Artemis have been reduced to training in their smaller 45-foot catamaran with their second AC72 still being worked on.

Artemis Racing's owner Torbjorn Tornqvist was in San Francisco last week, working alongside the crew in the gym, dive training, and sailing. It was Torbjorn's second visit in the last month as he looks to boost morale and productivity with time ticking away on his troubled syndicate.

"It has been great to be together with the team, and I am impressed with what they've been able to accomplish under such difficult circumstances," Torbjorn said. "There is clearly still a lot of work to do, but safety remains the central consideration."

- Sunday Star Times

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