America's Cup contenders appoint international jurors

The contending parties in the 33rd America's Cup Match have nominated their expert witnesses for the New York Supreme Court hearing on Wednesday 4 November, as requested by Justice Kornreich on Friday. Both men have exemplary records with the America's Cup and can bring much-needed experience and expertise to the proceedings.

Société Nautique de Genève has nominated Graham McKenzie, who was a member of the 32nd America's Cup Jury and has sailed competitively and for leisure in New Zealand on a wide range of yachts. He retired as partner of Bell Gully, a New Zealand law firm, in 2006 and is a Notary Public. McKenzie is a Barrister and Solicitor in New Zealand and Queensland and is a Director of several public companies. He is also Deputy Chairman of Saint Kentigern Trust Board (St Kentigern was one of the schools which competed in the recent Interdominion Schools Teams Racing) and a Trustee of the Bruce McLaren Trust, named for the former world Formula One motor racing champion.

GGYC has nominated Bryan Willis, who served on the America's Cup Jury from 1992 to 2007 and was Chairman and Chief Umpire for the 2000, 2003 and 2007 Matches. He was also International Jury Chairman at the Sydney 2000 Olympics and for the 2005/6 and 2008/9 Volvo Ocean Race. He has held a number of significant positions at ISAF, including being a member of the rules committee for 30 years. He has also written two books about the rules of racing.

The two men will chose a third expert to assist Justice Kornreich with the technical issues still pending, which include:

? The use of moveable water ballast in the measurement of load-water line.
? If it is safe to race off Valencia, Spain, in February 2010, the date and venue now set for the race. By mutual agreement, SNG and GGYC could select a different venue in the Southern Hemisphere.
? If rules can be changed after the Notice of Race is issued. (As it now stands, SNG can change the rules at any time prior to the match.)
? When it is customary to select a jury for an America's Cup match.
? If the contract between the ISAF and SNG imperils the objectivity of the jurors and the rules by which they are bound.

SNG has also announced it will appeal Justice Kornreich's decision of 30 October rejecting Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates as the venue for the 33rd America's Cup. SNG has applied for an expedited appeal to avoid any delay to the February 2010 Deed of Gift Match. The SNG statement reads:

The choice of Ras Al Khaimah was made based on the plain language of Justice Cahn's (Kornreich's predecessor) May 2008 Court Order that ruled the location of the 33rd America's Cup Match to be in ‘Valencia or any other location selected by the SNG'.
The Emirati venue was selected by the Defender for several reasons: the suitability of the weather conditions for a February Deed of Gift Match; the infrastructure offered by the country and the experience the UAE brings in organising world class sporting events.

SNG has been backed into a corner over the venue. Ras Al Khaimah was chosen because the wind and sea conditions best suit the defender's giant catamaran. As well as being unpleasant for spectators, with an average daytime temperature of just 13degC, Valencia in February offers either very light or very strong winds, both of which suit the challenger's trimaran, hence SNG's contention that it is “unsafe” to sail in Valencia in February.

The other option, which the Court can't rule against, is to take the Match to the Southern Hemisphere. However the only venue with recent America's Cup infrastructure in place is Auckland, where the Swiss team is actively despised. Yachting New Zealand would welcome the Match, but the Swiss would be in for a hostile reception from spectators.

Fremantle, the venue in 1987, could accommodate the two teams very easily, but again the winds are unfavourable to the defender. Light airs in the morning with strong westerlies when the Fremantle Doctor comes in at around 2pm would not suit the catamaran.

Sydney would be a possibility, using the superyacht facilities at Rozelle Bay, and weather conditions in February could be ideal for the catamaran.

However, it is much more likely that the Swiss will attempt to use the Supreme Court's judgement that they can set their own rules for the Match, to set upper and lower limits on the wind strengths in which races can be sailed. This will ensure the Cup goes back to the Court, even if it ever gets onto the water.

There is a real possibility that the match may not take place at all, which could see the demise of the Cup as the sport's premier and iconic event. The selection of two such distinguished jurors as McKenzie and Willis should expedite things, but neither SNG nor GGYC has demonstrated a history of abiding by the umpire's decision.

– Roger McMillan

JPK August 2023
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JPK August 2023