Monday, May 31, 2010

ISAF and the 33rd America's Cup Mutiny

Drama, intrigue, twisting plot... all elements of a good story. Good stories may also have aspects we can relate to, yet can’t quite experience for ourselves. This was the 33rd America’s Cup, and like any good sequel, it carried on elements of previous episodes while also being unique. That it was.

Bitter billionaires contesting in a mano-a-mano duel. No-limit multihulls facing off in a never before seen match race contest. Tactics and strategy - on land and by sea. Probably the only failing of this movie was its excessive length. Parts should have been cut. But when the ending came, bamm, it provided that extra element that all good series have. Something we did not expect.

It was after challenger USA 17 crushed defender Alinghi 5 in both races to win the 33rd America’s Cup that Scuttlebutt legal analyst Cory E. Friedman broke the story of a mutiny on the race committee boat. What you say? Yes, during the deciding second race of February 14. 2010, the defense club - Societe Nautique De Geneve’s (SNG) - had their race committee actually go on strike and refuse to start the race ordered by ISAF approved PRO Harold Bennett.

The Swiss mutiny was publically deemed a violation of the highest order, and questioned again how the America’s Cup could be considered a fair sporting event as long as biased hands administered the event. But another question loomed too. Would ISAF have the courage to investigate the matter and deliver harsh punishment where needed?

After over three months, the answer is now upon us, and it is, just like the 33rd America’s Cup, not what we expected. Following a standard review process by the ISAF Race Officials Committee, it is their assessment of the ‘mutiny’ event that it may have been Bennett who was as much the mutineer as was the SNG race committee personnel.

What ISAF found were a series of conflicts of who was really in charge. As PRO, one would assume that Bennett was in charge. If he wanted to run the race, then the race would be run. There were legal documents that supported this position. However, Bennett had also agreed with SNG that there would be a voting system. Bennett was among the four members that comprised the SNG appointed race committee, and Bennett would hold two of the votes.

Prior to the start of the second race, a 3-2 vote was taken against starting the race. But Bennett believed the 7-9 knots of wind and 1 meter swell were suitable conditions, and when the three members of the SNG race committee refused to proceed and went below decks, he recruited non-SNG personnel and together they got the race started.

So what does ISAF intend to do? It would seem that there was not a lot they could do. They found the race to be a fair contest, and since SNG did not protest it, the steps forward for ISAF is to clarify their rules and regulations such that the responsibilities of ISAF appointed race officers are better understood. -- Craig Leweck

ISAF statement:
ISAF Race Officials Committee report:[8925].pdf

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At 6:56 AM, Blogger ruglet said...

Nice to know the end of this sad story in the history of the Cup. It seems the lesson learned is that the writers of the Deed of Gift knew best, and ISAF is just not up to adding any value to an AC challenge. Kudos to Harold Bennett who did the right thing. It is just unbelievable that ISAF could agree to "PRO by committee". One can only assume that ISAF does not comprehend leadership, and a PRO with the authority to employ his judgement.
Fortuately, BMW Oracle and Mascalzone Latino seem to be focused on the 'mutual consent' clause with the shared goal of a competitive match to restore the majesty and integrity of America's Cup competition.
Peter Rugg

At 8:36 PM, Anonymous Greg Lovekamp said...

Perhaps I am missing a subtlety here, but what I read in ISAF's report is the supposed worldwide authority on sailing indicating they are actually inconsequential concerning sailing. It truly doesn't get much more pathetic than that, does it?

At 1:17 AM, Blogger Ed F said...

1) ISAF didn't agree to "PRO by committee" - Harold Bennett did.

2) ISAF can't take any action. It has received no report "alleging a gross breach of a rule, good manners or sportsmanship, a
report alleging conduct that has brought the sport into disre-
pute, or a report required by rule 69.1(c) or 69.1(e)," and therefore can't take any action under 69. And

Or are you suggesting that ISAF abandon the concept of the rule of law, and just decide to punish people no matter what?

At 9:52 AM, Blogger ruglet said...

To Ed F
Harold Bennett announced on Feb 15 that he would file Rule 69 violations. In Early March the ISAF website said it had received the filing from Bennett.
That information seems to have been removed from the ISAF website.
Is some revisionist history being played out here?


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