Design changes an unfair penalty - Barker

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 27/06/2013

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Dean Barker has voiced Team New Zealand's frustration at proposed design changes being pushed through under the safety banner on the eve of the America's Cup.

The four syndicates remain at loggerheads over a proposed change in the specification for a piece of equipment known as a rudder elevator, which helps control the giant catamarans when they go airborne on hydrofoils.

Happy to accommodate the bulk of the 37 alterations being recommended in the wake of the Artemis training death, Team New Zealand and Italians Luna Rossa, see the change in the rudder rule as a step too far, especially with the challenger racing due to start on Monday week (NZ time).

"It's just frustrating when you're literally 13 days away from starting the first race and you could be forced to actually make changes to the equipment, which if you are making design-related decisions should have happened a year ago," New Zealand skipper Barker told USA Today in San Francisco yesterday.

Cup holders Oracle, who have had reported troubles with their foiling, have already been using the rudder elevator in testing and will have a further two months to refine it with their in-house training while the Louis Vuitton Cup is played out before the start of the America's Cup on September 7.

Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa argue they have shown that the cats can foil successfully - and safely - without the elevators.

"We've designed our boat according to what the class rule was. We made compromises in our design decisions. We provided a boat that was safer but maybe not faster across a wide array of conditions. We don't feel that it's right that we should pay a penalty for making those decisions when we did," Barker said.

Further rulings on this crucial change seem inevitable. The full five-person International Jury could be called upon for their thoughts but the New York Supreme Court may have to make the ultimate judgement with the Italians admitting that remains an option.

Meanwhile, regatta director Iain Murray of Australia remains unrepentant as he pushes through the 37 changes in a desperate bid to get the safety permit from the United States Coast Guard to start racing.

"You know the bottom line is bigger elevators is safer. I think everyone would acknowledge that and it's just how you get to that point," Murray told ABC.

"... I guess it's very hard to cut across something that actually is perfect for everyone because all the boats are built."

Murray is pleading for the final sticking points to be agreed on.

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"There are only a couple of items where, for competitive reasons, the teams can't find common ground, but I won't let those natural competitive instincts derail the process.

"I would hope they step back for a moment, as I have, and see that these are necessary changes. These changes haven't been made to pick favourites - they have been made to enhance safety for everyone."

Oracle, which capsized an AC72 last October, had troubles with their first taste of two-boat testing yesterday when a damaged headstay forced their latest cat back to base for repairs. They are expected to be back on the water today.

- Stuff

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