Paul Todd / Volvo Ocean Race

Telefonica protest dismissed

Leg 4 was sailed before an ambiguity in NoR article 5.2 was resolved

Thursday April 19th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: Brazil

The protest brought about the Volvo Ocean Race’s measurement group against Team Telefonica was heard last night by the International Jury in Itajai. Today the five man jury, chaired by ISAF international judge Bernard Bonneau, dismissed the case after deciding Telefonica were reasonable in assuming, at the time, that they were in compliance with all rules.

On leg four from Sanya to Auckland, the Spanish VO70 carried 10 sails, including two headsails and two storm jibs.

Prior to the start, on 18 February, representatives of Telefonica queried the Race Director and Chief Measurer regarding the number of storm jibs that could be carried. The answer came back that the NoR placed a minimum, not a maximum, on the number of storm jibs that could be carried.

Telefonica’s sail inventory was subsequently declared, and checked by the Chief Measurer, in Sanya on 18 February and the Chief Measurer did not file a report alleging sails in excess of any limitation in the NoR at this time. The Spanish VO70’s sail inventory was again checked in Auckland on 11 March after completing leg 4 and again the Chief Measurer did not file a report alleging sails in excess of any limitation in the NoR.

However on 16 March the Race Committee provided the teams with a written interpretation of NoR articles 5.2.1 and 5.2.2, stating that if a boat carries additional storm jibs or heavy weather jibs, they are counted as headsails for the purposes of NoR 5.2.2(b).

(The relative NoR articles are: 

5.2.1 For a Leg or an In-Port race a Boat shall in addition to the restrictions in NOR 5.2.2 or 5.2.3: have on board 1 storm trysail, 1 storm jib and 1 heavy weather jib (HWJ). The storm trysail shall be used in case of safety or emergency and sheeted without a mainsail. In addition to the storm jib, storm trysail and the heavy weather jib (HWJ) a Boat may have on board and declared in accordance with NOR 8.5.1, for;

5.2.2 A Leg: declared sails to a maximum of;
(a) 1 Mainsail
(b) 2 Headsails (which may include additional HWJ’s and storm jibs)
(c) 3 Spinnakers including 1 Spinnaker, which complies with Volvo Open 70 Rule v.3. Section 11.3.9
(d) 1 Staysail)

On 18 March, the Chief Measurer reported that under this interpretation Telefonica had sailed leg 4 with one headsail in excess of the limitation stated above, and as a result of this a protest was filed against Telefonica.

The jury this afternoon found that Telefonica had correctly sought clarification from the appropriate body and in the absence of any report from the Chief Measurer, as required in the Notice of Race article 5.3.1 (‘Any sail hoisted or declared in excess of the allowances in NOR 5.1.1 (a), (b) and (d) or 5.2 shall be reported to the IJ and may result in a hearing’) indicated that at the times of inspection, Telefonica had declared her sail inventory and sailed leg 4 in compliance with article 5.2 of the Notice of Race.

They also found that the interpretation emailed to the teams on 16 March conflicted with the Chief Measurer’s previous interpretation, indicating that prior to this date the meaning of article 5.2 had been ambiguous and it was thus reasonable for Telefonica to believe her sail inventory on leg 4 was in compliance with the Notice of Race.

As the 16 March interpretation cannot be applied retrospectively, so Telefonica cannot be found to have broken NoR 5.2 during leg 4. As a result the protest was this afternoon dismissed.

A sailor from another team shared his thoughts on this issue: “It was an unfortunate mistake for Telefonica, and it is of course very wrong. That sail is an important part of the inventory - it allows you to put a staysail inside a jib at very tight angles and at certain points of sail it makes it significantly faster. They also wanted to have a proper storm jib for the potentially windy exit of Luzon Straight and the South China Sea. So they ended up taking two storm jibs on the boat, which would have been okay in the previous race rules, but wasn’t okay under the present race rules.”

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