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Chief umpire puts controversial call to bed

The burning question in the minds of the press at the Race Management and Rules briefing yesterday morning was why was Artemis Racing were penalised at the last mark of their race with Emirates Team New Zealand the day before.

The Royal Gazette asked the chief umpire Richard Slater if he knew how fast New Zealand were going as they went into the mark zone and what rights they had in the zone in relation to Artemis.

Slater said, “They were going 35 knots and they were the starboard-tack boat and had starboard-tack rights. When they hit the ‘zone' they had rights, but the starboard tack right-of-way was what we were looking at.”

That speed of 35 knots meant that the New Zealand boat was doing about 65ft per second ... more than one boat length per second. “Both boats were,” Slater confirmed.

When asked if it was a dangerous situation, Slater said: “I'll leave that for the sailors to tell.”

Slater had said in a statement on Monday evening that after looking back at the incident with more time for review, the umpires would have given Artemis a green light.

In the briefing the next morning, he said that in the electronic system “we had the data to judge and we didn't use that [data] at that time. We had the ability with the electronic system to see the potential position of the boats and at the time we were getting the call off the water ... one of the things we have to do is prioritise the data coming in from the system off the water. We needed to know the positioning in the future of the boats.”

Iain Murray, the race director, said: “You have one boat going 32 knots another boat going 40 knots. These are very special people [the helmsmen] judging when to turn up and when to go down.

“During that race we had boats going 40 knots ducking down and missing other boats by a metre. Peter Burling missed Artemis a couple of times by that much. These are super sailors to make those judgment calls. You have to talk to them, the sailors, to understand the magnitude of these split-second, less-than-split-second decisions. To eventually get on top of the comfort and safety of these boats.”

Murray added: “Bear in mind, this is the first time we've seen these boats race. They are in a course where they are overlapped at the top mark, overlapped at the bottom mark, overlapped at the top mark.

“It's a learning curve. Lessons were learnt [by the umpires] and you could possibly say that the teams learnt lessons out of this as well. Artemis could have torn off another boat length or two [a split second or two at 35 knots] downwind and burnt off some of that 40 knots and avoided the encounter. And they have got to do that.”

The outcome of yesterday's first race, also between Artemis Racing and Team New Zealand, was also decided essentially on another right-of-way penalty. Artemis, trying to cross again on port tack, failed to keep clear and forced New Zealand to alter course in their approach to the weather mark. They had to give New Zealand a two-boat-length lead on the way to the finish.

Chief umpire Richard Slater (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published May 31, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated May 31, 2017 at 1:22 am)

Chief umpire puts controversial call to bed

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