Team NZ practising for all worst-case scenarios

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 29/06/2013

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Team New Zealand have long regarded the All Blacks as their sporting measure and now they have adopted the rotation theory on the eve of the America's Cup.

Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton shuffled his crew in training in San Francisco yesterday, including removing skipper Dean Barker from the wheel of the giant catamaran.

The Kiwis put their Australian crew member, Glenn Ashby, in charge for the second half of the session run in the Bay's notorious fog. Ashby is the team's multi-hull specialist whose normal role is a trimmer.

Strategist Adam Beashel switched to looking after the massive wingsail in Ashby's absence.

Barker left the AC72 and observed from the team's chase boat.

With the start of the Louis Vuitton Cup looming on Monday week, it is a case of covering off the worst-case scenarios in case some of the rock stars, like Barker, are forced out through illness or injury.

The tricky conditions on San Francisco Bay mean building knowledge there throughout the crew is crucial.

Ashby took up the challenge and was happy to complete it without any mishaps.

"It was also good to look at your own role from the outside as well," Ashby said.

Barker concurred: "It was a bit different sitting in the chase boat watching. But you pick up different things as well."

Meanwhile, Team New Zealand yesterday confirmed they are filing a protest with the America's Cup jury, believing regatta director Iain Murray "has exceeded his jurisdiction in seeking to unilaterally introduce changes to the AC 72 class rule".

Murray, desperate to get the United States Coast Guard permit to start racing, is pushing through 37 "safety" measures recommended in the wake of the Artemis training death, despite two of them being disputed by Team New Zealand and Italy's Luna Rossa.

The contentious changes allow larger rudder elevators and the adding of a further 100kg to stabilise the massive yachts while they are foiling.

Cup holders Oracle have been trialling the controversial elevators since March but the Kiwis and Italians claim it is too late to make those adjustments, and also outside the current rules which require all syndicates to agree.

Two members of the international jury attempted four days of mediation last week without success.

Now the full five-person jury will assemble next week at Team New Zealand's behest.

"It is our view that the contentious class rule changes are performance-related rules not necessary to ensure safety," Team New Zealand said in a statement.

"The team says the organisers are wrong in seeking to legitimise the unauthorised class rule changes by seeking to use the jurisdiction of the coast guard to introduce these rules via the marine event permit."

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Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton added: "We look forward to the jury determining the issue so, whatever the decision is, we can get on with the racing in the Louis Vuitton Cup starting July 7."

Earlier Dalton told the San Francisco Chronicle: "We think he [Murray] has gone further than he needed to go.

"He's done a really good job but he's gotten himself - welcome to America - in a liability scenario. He's worried that he'll get into a liability scenario [in case of another accident] with his recommendations."

The possibility of Supreme Court action has also been raised.

Dalton indicated that was not in his thinking but the Italians have hinted they might go down that extreme avenue. "What's happening is just short of a scandal," Luna Rossa spokesman Francesco Longanesi-Cattani said.

But Team New Zealand say the ruling of the international jury will be enough to sort out this mess.

"The decision of the jury will be final and binding on all parties, and, contrary to some media speculation, any competitor who resorts to court in an issue where the jury has jurisdiction immediately ceases to be eligible to compete," their statement said.

The Italians and Kiwis claim they have proven that the cats can foil without the larger elevators.

Oracle, who appear to have had early struggles with their foiling, have used the mechanisms to help them in this key area. Oracle's New Zealand chief executive and America's Cup veteran Russell Coutts was his usual calm self as the storm swirled.

"I've never seen a rules issue decide the outcome of a [cup] race," Coutts said.

"These guys love to sit around, argue about minutia.

"They're not doing it for safety reasons. They want to try to force us to spend a week rebuilding the rudders in the boat shed. That's the only reason they're doing it," Coutts said. Fairfax NZ

- Fairfax Media

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