Representatives for Alinghi Team, Oracle BMW Racing, defender Team New Zealand and the International Jury have finalised an agreement to utilise onboard umpire observers for the Louis Vuitton Cup and the America's Cup Match.
The objective of the system is to provide umpires with accurate information from an onboard perspective and to inform afterguards of crucial rule-related information.
The two teams have agreed to the plan and the umpires are ready to proceed. Both Alinghi's SUI-64 and Oracle BMW's USA-76 have had safety bars fitted across the transom scoops behind the roll bars to give the umpires a hand hold. Representatives for Alinghi and Oracle BMW, the Louis Vuitton Cup finalists, say they're happy with the development.
"We're in favour of the system,"
said Alinghi spokesman Bernard Schopfer. "The more accurate their view, the better their calls."
"We've been in favour all along,"
said Tom Ehman, Oracle BMW Racing Director of Rules Compliance. "It has been done before in these boats, in practise regattas and training."
The final hurdle, according to International Jury Chairman and Chief Umpire Bryan Willis, is insurance liability. "Insurance liability could kill the plan, but we're doing what we can to resolve the issue,"
The teams are expected to practise tomorrow with the onboard observers.
The onboard observers will communicate with a third umpire in the hard-bottom inflatable, who will relay the information to the two umpires calling the match. The observers will relay his observations on the boat to the umpires and relevant information from the umpires to the afterguards.
The observers may initiate calls such as 'clear', 'overlap' or 'seventeen'.
Clear means the boats are not overlapped.
Overlap means the boat astern has become overlapped to windward or to leeward when they may be more than two boatlengths apart.
Seventeen means the boat astern has become overlapped clearly within two lengths or after a call of "seventeen" from the umpires, which refers to Rule 17, On the Same Tack; Proper Course.
The observer transmits the calls to the umpires and the other observer by radio, and immediately repeats the information to his afterguard. The observer not making the call will, on receiving the transmission, repeat it to his afterguard.
When there is an umpire-initiated call they will transmit the following statements to the observers, who will immediately relay them loudly to their afterguards:
Clear at zone: The boats were not overlapped as they entered the windward mark two-boatlength zone or the leeward mark three-boatlength zone.
Overlap at zone: the boats were overlapped as they entered the windward or leeward mark zone.
Blue/Yellow complete: The blue boat (port tack entering pre-start box) or yellow boat (starboard tack entering pre-start box) has completed her tack. (This is used only when there might be doubt, for example during a dial-up in the pre-start.)
Blue/Yellow still tacking: The blue boat or yellow boat has not completed her tack. (This is used only when there might be doubt, for example during a dial-up in the pre-start.)
Willis explained the onboard umps perspective in the transom scoop could be particularly effective when calling an overlap downwind.
"If they're calling a (Rule) 17 (On the Same Tack; Proper Course) and if the trailing boat is dead astern, they'll have to look at where the hull is pointing if spinnaker is over leading boat," said Willis.
Willis noted that if the onboard umpires are of disparate weight, the lighter umpire will carry corrector weights to equalise with the heavier umpire.
Attempts were made to place observers onboard the boats in Louis Vuitton Cup 2000 and the 30thAmerica's Cup Match. But the plan ultimately failed because of radiation concerns.
The roll bars on America's Cup Class sloops carry a variety of telemetry equipment to transmit television signals and performance data that emits low levels of radiation.
Meanwhile, in the issue of Team New Zealand's "Hula"
, the International Jury have determined that any protests arising from what is a measurement issue, especially whether or not the Hula touches the hull outside the permitted areas, will have an onus of proof placed on the challenger.
Bryan Willis stated. "Clear and compelling evidence would be required to satisfy the jury that the appendage had touched the hull…"
He went on to say that the role of the jury in the event of a protest on this issue would be as a fact finder. Decisions on whether or not a class rule had been broken would be made by the measurement committee and would bind the International Jury in its decision.
Measurement Committee supremacy is bound by article 21.2 of the America's Cup Protocol.
To date, the umpires have issued 21 270-degree penalty turns in the 182 matches completed. They have also issued 137 green flags to 165 "Y" flag requests from competitors. (The disparity between penalties, green flags and "Y" flag requests stems from both teams requesting a penalty for the same incident.)
Competitors may fly Code Flag Y seeking a penalty on their opponent when they believe there's been a violation of the right-of-way rules.
Alinghi hasn't been penalised in any of its matches, while Oracle BMW Racing has been penalised once, back in Round Robin 2 versus OneWorld Challenge.
But the umpires have been much busier in matches involving Oracle BMW Racing than in ones involving Alinghi. The umpires have issued 57 green flags in Oracle BMW's matches compared to 24 green flags for matches involving Alinghi.
Fourteen of Alinghi's 22 matches have been completed without any umpire calls while nine of Oracle BMW's 28 matches have lacked umpire calls.