America's Cup Diary: Day 3 - Valencia, Spain

Rules of engagement.


08:30. This morning, crews were given a lie-in. The planned 5:30 a.m. call to arms was postponed overnight because of the leftover slop from yesterday's 30-knot winds. As the two crews convene at their bases, Principal Race Officer Harold Bennett of New Zealand calls an indefinite delay and the boats remain idle. To this humble scribe, it is a beautiful day for a sail: Bright cloudless skies, a crisp 5-knot nor'wester with the promise of a little more to come. We suspect that Larry Ellison's BMW Oracle Racing crew is relishing the opportunity to go and race too. But not Alinghi-and it is their club, Société Nautique de Genève (SNG), that is calling the shots here. The BMW Oracle team successfully protested the rule within the original Notice of Race that would have limited racing to a maximum of 15 knots of wind and 3-foot seas. I believe SNG had attempted to insert this limit because this is considered the performance cross-over point between Alinghi's lighter catamaran and the heavier, more robust American trimaran. The International Jury outlawed this rule and gave the decision to the Race Committee. But Ernesto Bertarelli's Alinghi team continue to show us there's more than one way to skin a cat. While Bennett is impartial, the three other members of the race committee are all SNG men, ready to out-vote their chairman. There is another issue to consider: SNG and Alinghi have a third-party insurance policy to cover the event, compulsory in Spain. This policy limits racing to conditions in winds of less than 15 knots and 1-metre seas. If conditions exceed these meager limits, then the event insurance policy is null and void and the Race Committee must take full responsibility for anything that might happen to the two race boats, the spectator fleet, and indeed themselves. Hence no racing today! So far the most heated competition seems to be taking place on the committee boat. American Tom Ehman is the fox inserted into this floating Swiss henhouse. As mastermind of Ellison's contentious American Cup challenge, Ehman is reportedly disliked by the Swiss contingent. So to put him onboard as BMW Oracle's official representative was bound to cause a fuss. When Ehman turned up for Monday's aborted race, Fred Meyer, the vice-commodore of the Société Nautique de Genève, refused to let him on board. The standoff was resolved only when Lucien Masmejan, SNG's legal counsel, confirmed that the two Cup skippers, Brad Butterworth and Russell Coutts, had agreed to Ehman's presence. This correspondent would suggest Ehman bring his own lunch, or have Meyer taste the communal fare first! 12:45. The announcement has come: Racing is cancelled for the day. We now wait to see if conditions will suit the Race Committee on Friday. No one here is holding their breath. For previous blog entries