Saturday, 4 April 2009

VOR: Telefonica Blue Denied Redress

Bouwe Bekking, skipper of Telefonica Blue. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Peter Rusch

The International Jury has denied the Telefonica Blue claim for redress. The Jury convened in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday afternoon to hear the case. Within two hours, they came back to tell Telefonica Blue its claim had been denied.

"(I'm) a little bit disappointed... They dismissed the protest, which is unfortunate for us and fortunate for the race committee and race authorities," said Bouwe Bekking, skipper of Telefonica Blue. "That's it, that's how yacht racing is. No bad feelings, we gave it our best shot."

To make a successful claim for redress, the Racing Rules of Sailing (62.1) state the request has to satisfy the Jury ‘that a boat's score in a race or series has, through no fault of her own, been made significantly worse by an improper action or omission of the race committee.'

Bouwe Bekking, skipper of Telefonica Blue, said that his boat grounded before the start in a shallow area that was too close to the start line. The area, he said, was ‘high risk' for navigation.

Further, he claimed his team's standing in the leg was compromised when Telefonica Blue was unable to haul out immediately after returning to the marina in Qingdao, due to insufficient depth at low tide. He also thought the Race Committee should have postponed the start when it learned the Telefonica boat had been damaged.

But the Race Committee said that when laying the course it took into account ‘the obstacles that we knew were there based on the information we had at the time.'

‘There was sufficient water around the start,' according to the Race Director Jack Lloyd. He went on to say the Race Committee wasn't aware, before the start, that Telefonica Blue had run aground, but only that the team was suspending racing.

During the hearing, the Jury chairman Bryan Willis agreed that Telefonica Blue's finishing position was probably made significantly worse after the boat grounded on an uncharted obstruction minutes before the start.

But clearing the other hurdles in the redress rule (no fault of her own, and improper action by the Race Committee) was more difficult.

The Jury found that Telefonica Blue hit an uncharted object in area that had sufficient charted depth (10 metres). The team called the Race Committee to suspend racing, but did not give a reason at that time. Regardless of whether the Race Committee knew the reason Telefonica Blue was suspending racing or not, it was under no obligation to postpone the start.

The Jury also found "the Race Committee made reasonable efforts to ensure the start was set in a safe area" and had previously taken soundings in the area but didn't find any readings that disagreed with the chart.

Neither the Race Committee nor the race organisers had an obligation to provide constant access to a port for repairs.

Thus the Telefonica Blue request for redress was denied.

Bekking says they won't ask for the hearing to be re-opened: "This is it...we had a couple of things that we thought might make an opening, but you can drag these things on and we have an in-port race this weekend," he said. "Now we just have to think about Saturday and go yacht racing."

Volvo Ocean Race

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