Italians, New Zealand upset over rule changes


A long simmering dispute is coming to a head. New Zealand and the Italian team have announced that they will appeal these new rule changes that are being permitted in the name of safety.

New Zealand's boat can fly just above the surface of the water with both hulls out of the water. When the design rules were set for the America's Cup 72-foot catamarans, the planners didn't anticipate hydrofoils. But New Zealand figured out how to do it within the parameters of the design specifications and they've led the competition.

The other teams have since adopted the wing-like foils on their dagger boards and then added them to their rudders, the ones on the rudders are called elevators.

"And for people to understand what they are, think about the tail of an airplane and think about the two little wings that go out the side," said Stephen Barclay from the CEO America's Cup Event Authority.

Elevators on the rudders have been helping Oracle foil downwind and while they don't fit within the original design specifications, the argument is larger elevators make the boats safer.

"What it means is the bows of the boats don't dip into the water as much," said Barclay.

When the Artemis boat collapsed last May, it was after one of the bows dug into the water as the boat turned downwind. But the Artemis boat didn't have hydrofoils, didn't have elevators on its rudder.

A spokesman for the Italian Luna Rossa team told me the rule changes regarding the size of the elevators has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with helping out the competition. He wouldn't say competitor would benefit, but he did note that Oracle supports the rule changes. The event's CEO told reporters all this is to be expected.

"It's just the process we're in before the competition starts and the teams are elbowing each other for competitive reasons," said Barclay.

Looking at the AC72 class rule, article 42 may be amended at any time by unanimous consent of the teams. What it doesn't say is that it can only be amended by unanimous consent. The Italian team believes that what it says, the regatta chairman says no. There is going to be an international jury that takes up this issue next week, just days before the racing is due to begin.

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