Johnstone: Oracle sailing close to the wind

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 07/07/2013
Emirates Team New Zealand
Getty Images
DISPUTE: Emirates Team New Zealand sail in the San Francisco Bay during a training session.

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OPINION: The most sense coming out of San Francisco ahead of tomorrow's opening America's Cup race was from Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton - and it had nothing to do about actual yachting.

Rather, Dalton, in his usual straightforward manner, worried out loud that the legal "shenanigans" that have engulfed the leadup to this 34th edition of the often troubled regatta were doing little for the sport, other than providing ammunition to those who love to hate the cup.

Of course Dalton and his syndicate are caught up in the "shenanigans". In fact they have put fuel on the fire by protesting some of the recommendations being slipped through under the "safety" banner, which was ramped up following the training death of Artemis Racing's Andrew Simpson in May.

But the Kiwis have every right to be emptying their petrol can on the blaze that is engulfing the regatta.

Fellow challengers Luna Rossa (Italy) have fired up as well and will be on New Zealand's side in front of the jury.

In a nutshell, their argument is that the boat design changes being implemented are illegal. They maintain such a move requires a unanimous vote by all four syndicates involved. They say the design changes relate to performance, not safety.

The coincidence - or is it? - with these changes is that they involve rudders that cup holders Oracle have already been trialling as a way of helping their ability to foil.

Foiling, undoubtedly a key to this cup, where extra speed comes from lifting both hulls of these giant catamarans clear and having just the resistance of rudders and daggerboards in the water, hasn't been an issue to the Kiwis or Italians. In fact they have excelled at it.

Take what you want from that, but it's hard to escape the feeling that Oracle are being allowed to use training wheels that were previously illegal. Yes, that may make them safer; but are they in the rules? The jury will decide and let's hope their decision is accepted.

Dragging this out will only realise Dalton's concerns - that the public are fed up with the boardroom battles - and that indifference will seep into the action on the water.

That would be a pity because the action will be unprecedented. This is an America's Cup on a scale never seen before - and it will never be seen again.

Everyone, even Oracle who dreamed up the monster AC72 class, agree the boats and budgets are too big to be sustained.

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Whoever wins this regatta will downsize things for the next edition.

So, put aside what will unfold in the jury room on Tuesday, and enjoy the racing tomorrow when Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa line up for the first clash of Louis Vuitton Cup challenger series.

It will be fast and furious. The speed and power of these beasts are unprecedented.

Sadly, the same can't be said of the "shenanigans" factor.

- Sunday News

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