From the morning fishwrap:
America's Cup challengers haggle over rules
Josh Edelson, Special To The Chronicle
Artemis' Paul Cayard says 72-footers are dangerous.
Less than two weeks before the challengers series begins in the America's Cup, the regatta's rules are unsettled as the four teams haggle over things like the maximum allowable wind speed for the races.
Regardless of how the dispute plays out, at least one key player is very unhappy that organizers missed a chance to have "the best America's Cup ever." Paul Cayard, a San Francisco native who is CEO of the Swedish team Artemis Racing, said Friday that the 72-foot catamarans being used are too big, too powerful and too dangerous.
"San Francisco is one of the windiest venues in the world," he said. "But that's a good thing if you've got the right tool for it. It's a horrible thing if you've got the wrong tool. Right now we've got the wrong tool. We've got a boat that's made for San Diego (where the winds are much lighter), and we're trying to race it in San Francisco."
Cayard is especially peeved at the decision to use a 38-meter (or 131-foot) wing rather than the 32-meter wing that was part of the original class rule, he said. The rules were established three years ago by Larry Ellison's Oracle Team Racing, the defender, and the Italian club Nautico di Roma, then the challenger of record.
Nautico di Roma pulled out of the 2013 competition two years ago. So the rules were already set when the Swedish club that sponsors Artemis took over as the challenger of record.
Originally it was planned that the big catamarans would race in Europe as well as the U.S., with the 38-meter wing only being used in places like Venice that have light winds, Cayard said. Those plans were scrapped because of the prohibitive costs of shipping the big boats.
The decision to stick with the larger wing in San Francisco's powerful winds might have contributed to the Artemis capsizing on May 9 that killed British sailor Andrew "Bart" Simpson.
"Accidents would have been less likely with the 32," Cayard said.
If the Cup had simply used the 45-foot boats that sailed the last two years in the America's Cup World Series, Cayard said, the reduced costs would have enabled probably a dozen teams to mount challenges. "Typically, we have eight and as many as 13 challengers in the America's Cups I've been in," he said.
Sander Van Der Borch, Sander Van Der Borch / Artemis R
Artemis' AC72 is built for San Diego conditions, not choppy, windy San Francisco Bay, says Paul Cayard.
As Artemis tries to come back from the tragic wreckage, work is still being done on the frame of the new wing at the team's headquarters in what used to be a warehouse in Alameda. Cayard may be hoping to buy more time to get his second boat operational; right now, team officials hope it is sailing by the end of July, but Artemis may have to skip the opening round-robin of the Louis Vuitton Cup series altogether.
Two members of the America's Cup international jury have so far been unsuccessful as mediators in getting the three challengers and Oracle on the same page. They have been working with a list of safety changes recommended by regatta director Iain Murray in the wake of the Artemis accident.
Talks are scheduled to continue Saturday. If an agreement can't be reached, the full five-member jury will decide the case. It would begin hearing arguments Monday morning.
Among the key sticking points is the recommendation that the maximum allowable wind speed for racing be lowered from 33 knots to 23 in the America's Cup finals and from 25 in the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger series to 20 in July and 21 in August.
Emirates Team New Zealand is arguing for a higher speed limit, Cayard said. "They think their boat was built for the high wind speeds, so they want to make everybody race in high wind speeds, even if it's unsafe," he said.
Grant Dalton, CEO of the New Zealand team, said in a statement issued by the team, "It is true that our boat was designed for the higher wind speed published in the rule in October 2010. This upper limit has been reduced by 30 percent, and Emirates Team New Zealand has gone along with this - to its own detriment - in the interests of the event.
"The Artemis incident was tragic, but if Cayard feels that Artemis cannot comply with the significantly reduced wind speed, they should withdraw from the event."
Tom FitzGerald is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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