We have been critical of the organizers of the 34th America’s Cup on a few occasions and quite often we are ourselves criticized that we keep whining and that we play the same old broken record but we think the press conference America’s Cup organizers held on Tuesday afternoon was the source of a major disappointment.
First of all, it was our understanding from the press statements in the last few days that the panel or committee would be independent. According to the Webster dictionary, “independent” is defined as not subject to control by others, self-governing, not affiliated with a larger controlling unit. Here are the committee members, as per Tuesday’s announcement:
• Iain Murray (AUS, Chair)
• Sally Lindsay Honey (USA, Deputy Chair)
• John Craig (USA)
• Chuck Hawley (USA)
• Vincent Lauriot-Prévost (FRA)
• Jim Farmer QC (NZL)
How independent can this committee it be when it’s chaired by Iain Murray, CEO of America’s Cup Race Management (ACRM)? John Craig is currently the Principal Race Officer for the 34th America’s Cup, responsible for conducting the races of the America’s Cup World Series, the Louis Vuitton Cup and the America’s Cup match. Vincent Lauriot-Prévost worked with BMW Oracle with the design of their trimaran in the 33rd America’s Cup and two years ago he was commissioned by ACRM to work on the platform of a basic AC72 design package that would have been sold to teams without the sufficient resources to develop their own fully fledged design.
At no time do we put in doubt the expertise and knowhow of these committee members. They undoubtedly are brilliant and experienced but they do not constitute an “independent” committee. They are or have recently been affiliated with ACRM and to our eyes, this is simply an internal committee. Does Iain Murray need to hold a press conference to announce he will chair a committee that will then report to him?
One truly hopes this is the last time we see such sad images from the America’s Cup in San Francisco
Even the title of the committee is another letdown. It is called a “review” committee, not an “inquiry” committee. They will simply review the facts found by the police investigation and the facts forwarded by the internal investigation Artemis Racing are currently carrying out. Based on those two reports they will issue a number of recommendations to the organizers and competitors but they will not have the right to enforce any of those recommendations to either the organization or the teams.
Regarding the recommendations the committee will make, Iain Murray stated they had an “open book”. They will look at “everything” that in their view could make training and racing safer. They will look at the “type of racing”, “race courses”, “where we sail”, “the times that we sail”, “the amount of wind that we sail in”, as well as “various parts of the design”. This means practically everything that constitutes a sailing race. Ironically, setting wind limits for AC72 races will fly into the face of the original claims nearly three years ago that this new class would be able to race in winds that range from 3 to 33 knots!
While our above concerns might be brushed aside as simple semantics one major aspect of the procedure makes us think the committee will only have ceremonial powers. Tom Ehman, Vice Commodore of the Golden Gate Yacht Club, holder of the America’s Cup was adamant about the fact that America’s Cup racing this summer would take place as scheduled and that there wasn’t the slightest intention, either by organizers or the teams, to even suggest a modification of the plans. He clearly stated that “there was not even a thought given this morning at the teams meeting to do anything but continue apace and make plans and preparations for this summer”, referring to the meeting organizers and teams held on Tuesday morning.
So, America’s Cup organizers take it for granted that the outcome of the review will not require any changes that might cause a delay in the schedule. As Iain Murray and Tom Ehman stated a couple of times, the committee is expected to finish its work and issue its findings within two-three weeks. The Louis Vuitton Cup starts in seven weeks which means there are four weeks left to implement any of the committee’s recommendations. It appears organizers feel very confident everything will be done and dusted before July 4th, day of the opening ceremony, despite the wide range of issues under consideration.
They might be gambling or they might already have inside knowledge that we don’t. Even if we admit it’s the latter there is yet another aspect that makes the work of this committee look irrelevant. Oracle Team USA had scheduled to resume training on Monday but held a weeklong break in respect of Andrew Simpson’s memory. As a result, they are planning to be back on the water as soon as possible and they might even be, possibly, sailing tomorrow, Thursday. They could also be joined by Luna Rossa on that day, as the Italians had their boat ready for launch in the weekend.
As a result, two teams could be back training on San Francisco bay the day Iain Murray and the rest of the committee start working! What’s the reason of having such a committee when teams can sail in the breeze before the review panel has even sat down for the first time? If the committee finds that Andrew Simpson’s tragic death was the result of insufficient rescue resources shouldn’t the other three teams wait for the full facts? Let alone the simple question of whether the boat capsized because it first broke or whether it broke following its capsize…
We do understand that America’s Cup organizers are between a rock and a hard place but what will happen if another major incident takes place before the committee issues any recommendation? As a sailor told us yesterday after the press conference, it’s a review committee simply to review how they stop the wheels from falling off the Cup not about how to keep sailors safe. Let’s hope he’s wrong.