Camper's forestay strop in question

Have the VOR's rules intrepreters exceeded their remit?

Wednesday October 19th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: Spain

Prior to the start of the Volvo Ocean Race there is traditionally some controversy over a design aspect of one of the competing yachts. Last time it was over the word ‘solid’ in relation to the cavities in Ericsson 3’s keel foil. This time it is over whether or not the Emirates Team New Zealand-powered Camper has an adjustable forestay and specifically whether the Rule Interpretation Group’s interpretations permitting Camper’s system have resulted in them exceeding their remit by causing a rule change.

The Volvo Open 70 Class Rule prohibits the use of an adjustable forestay (rule 10.1.6) however rule 10.1.9 states that ‘the mast may be steadied to balance a slackened backstay and running backstays either by the use of headsail or spinnaker halyards and their proper winches, or by a strop attached to the deck aft of FFS taking tension on an articulated forestay.’ So effectively a strop can be used to take up the slack in the forestay, when sailing downwind under kite with the runners eased, to prevent the forestay flogging and possible detriment to the forestay itself and its masthead fitting.

On Camper the strop disappears below deck where it is presumably tensioned by a hydraulic ram. The view of the other teams is that clearly if this ram were suitably powerful then it could do more than simply take up forestay slack, but be used to adjust the forestay (and the rake of the mast) thereby breaching rule 10.1.6. Evidence for this is the strop connecting to the forestay higher up than it is on other VO70s, although quite how this forestay adjustment could affect the rake in a beneficial way remains a mystery without breaching rule 10.1.2 which states that the mast step shall be fixed and that linear movement of the mast at deck level cannot exceed 5mm.

Public Interpretation 59 outlines the last decision on this matter, made earlier this month by the Volvo Ocean Race’s rules arbitrators, with Drawings 2 and 3 illustrating the arrangement on Camper. Not a good look is that the PI in question is signed on behalf of the Rule Intepretation Group (VIG) by Andy Claughton, a man of impeccable reputation but who nonetheless worked for Team New Zealand for seven years first as Research Co-ordinator and then as Design Co-ordinator for the 32nd America’s Cup. In addition to Claughton the VIG also comprises Shaun Ritson and Ken McAlpine.

A decision on whether the PIs relating to the matter has caused a rule change is expected this week.

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