Illegal routing protest to go further

In the EDS Atlantic Challenge Team Gartmore's skipper Josh Hall says he will take his protest to a higher authority

Monday August 6th 2001, Author: Josh Hall, Location: United Kingdom
Following is a statement made by Josh Hall of Team Gartmore, competing in the EDS Atlantic Challenge race following the recent loss of his protest against Kingfisher and Ecover:

"Team Gartmore have not made any public comments regarding our protest of Kingfisher and Ecover during Leg 3 of the EDS Atlantic Challenge. We adopted this position as we are sensitive to the serious nature of the protest and the media implications that could arise from it. We were not, and are still not prepared to turn this issue into a public jury situation.

"We had hoped that our protest would receive the fair hearing it deserves, but as it happens the protest has not been validated by the race jury and under race rules we have no rights to appeal this decision with this particular jury.

"The reason for non-validation is that the jury believes we reported the incident outside the four hour limit allowed between observing an infringement and filing a protest. We strongly disagree with this decision and have documented proof that we filed our protest using the correct procedure within four hours of us confidently observing.

"We were notified of the jury's decision on this just minutes after we crossed the finish line - close to one week after filing the protest. Excuse us for being cynical but we believe that the commercial and PR considerations of this event have driven this decision and that the timing of its notification to us is such that this issue was kept under wraps to allow the protested boats a clean finish and prevent us causing any embarrassment while we were still racing.

"To be honest we, as a team, are now totally disillusioned with the race committee and the race jury.

"Although we are not prepared to discuss this protest in the media or in public, we do feel it is now time to explain why we protested. We will only divulge the exact details of our evidence when we have taken this protest as far as we can , but I think the fact that it is the first time I have filed a protest in 20 years of offshore racing should make people realise that we are serious and have evidence.

"Illegal routing is rife in our area of sailing. It can easily be hidden and offers a huge advantage to those who are prepared to manipulate and indeed break the rules.

"With the modern communications equipment carried on board the yachts and the ability to remotely check any e-mail addresses ashore or be networked to a team computer ashore in an attempt to circumvent the rules about actually being sent information, policing it is nearly impossible.

"No one is more upset to have been presented with this information than Team Gartmore. However, from a moral standpoint and also from a racing rules standpoint, we had no option but to protest.

"We did not seek this information in a covert way - it was freely given to us by the unwitting and somewhat naïve router involved.

"This router was in contact with two separate people from our crew, the skipper and the navigator. On separate telephone conversations, she gave the same verbal information to both. That this same information was misunderstood twice would be incredulous. We also received e-mails from her confirming her comments to us.

"Her explanation to the race committee is totally different to that which she had given us on the phone before and, interestingly, matched Kingfisher's response. In the case of Ecover, we do not understand why a skipper who knows the rules inside out and has previously been an ardent critic of routing, would want information sent to his shore team and then not have it relayed somehow to the boat. The question of remote access of e-mails or networked computers comes up again. This simply reinforces our resolve to pursue the matter to the maximum.

"The boats/skippers we are protesting in this matter are well known and are also good friends of ours. We are well aware of the implications that our protest has, professionally, privately and media -wise for all involved.

"We carefully considered these implications as a crew, but the evidence presented to us leaves us no alternative but to pursue this protest, not for our own gain but for the good of the sport in general.

"We have already decided that we will be taking our protest to a higher authority, the decision that we are currently discussing amongst ourselves and with our sponsor is whether we will continue racing in the EDS. The on-water racing has been some of the best we have all experienced - it is a great event. However, we feel that some of the fundamentals of yacht racing rules are being manipulated against us and we are not sure at all that we wish to accept that.

Josh Hall
Skipper of Gartmore
3rd August 2001

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