TNZ Russel Green on the new racing rules for 34th America’s Cup

We are very happy to see that the new rules are being jointly developed by all the teams.  Emirates Team New Zealand’s rules advisor Russell Green says that the rule-making efforts are so far successful, achieving the goal of “simplicity provides certainty“. This seems to be another example of how the new Americas Cup managment is striving to satisfy the needs of all the competitiors and their sponsors. Snippets from Russel Green:

I’ve just got off a Skype call with the “enemy” – Richard Slater, rules advisor for Oracle Team USA who, like their skipper, is Australian.

(…) The topic was the on-the-water racing rules, known officially as the “ISAF Racing Rules of Sailing America’s Cup Edition”.

Past America’s Cup regattas have been governed by the ISAF Racing Rules with limited changes needed for AC yachts.

Fast catamarans with completely different handling characteristics racing on short courses needed a new approach. A simplified set of rules to suit the cats evolved; they have been trialled at the AC 45 events with progressive improvements and amendments after each event.

A majority of the competitors must approve an amendment, achieved by discussions and negotiations amongst teams’ rules advisors.

The process is cooperative rather than adversarial, with everyone aiming to achieve the same goal – a practical set of rules giving the sailors simplicity and certainty in situations on the race course which often become complex very quickly.

Sailors have to know their rights and obligations instantly. The job of a rules advisor is to ensure there are no gaps in that knowledge, the more complicated and uncertain the rules are, the more difficult this is.

In some respects, such as at the windward mark, the AC rules are radically different from the standard ISAF rules. The sailors have embraced them and they are working well. Many of the changes could well be incorporated in to future ISAF versions of the racing rules.

The big change at the windward mark is that the first boat to reach the three-length zone “owns” the rights to that mark even if the yachts are on opposite tacks. If a yacht is at that point either clear ahead or overlapped on an outside yacht it is entitled to room to round the mark including the room to tack. These rights are lost only if it leaves the zone.

Basic rules such as a port yacht keeping clear of starboard, the clear astern yacht keeping clear, and the windward yacht keeping clear of a leeward yacht remain the same.

Rule 17, prohibiting a yacht which establishes an overlap from clear astern from sailing above its proper course, has been deleted. In match racing this rule has always created arguments about “what is” a proper course, sailors were often in doubt about who was the obligated yacht, and it required difficult subjective calls by umpires. Many contentious decisions resulted. Different tactics apply but the change provides certainty and works well.

Having certainty in the wording of the rules is only part of the story Like all sports there is a need for consistency of interpretation and application of the rules by the umpires. The penalty system and umpiring in this edition of the America’s Cup is also radically different from previous events, but that is a subject for another day…….


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