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Kiwis' Use of Bowsprit Illegal, Jury Says


SAN DIEGO — A catamaran was OK but a bowsprit isn't, so explain that to New Zealand.

The five-man international jury for the America's Cup match in May ruled Thursday that the front-running Kiwis (13-1) have been using their bowsprit illegally in the first two rounds of the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger trials.

That conflicts with an earlier ruling by the LVC international jury that approved the New Zealand technique of attaching the lower corner of its billowing spinnaker or gennaker headsail to the end of the bowsprit instead of a spinnaker pole during certain sail-handling maneuvers.

The Kiwis did not accept the ruling gracefully but said they would seek "clarification."

Campaign manager Peter Blake was quoted in a statement, "Here we are contesting the most prestigious sailing regatta in the world but the referees can't agree on the rules. New Zealand is in full compliance with the rules, but now somebody wants to change them."

The match jury is headed by Goran Petersson of Sweden, the LVC jury by Graeme Owens of Australia.

Rule 64.3 states: "A spinnaker . . . shall not be set without a boom."

Rule 64.4 says: "No sail shall be sheeted over or through an outrigger . . ."

New Zealand had maintained that its bowsprit--a spar projecting one meter from the end of the bow--was not an outrigger and that the line controlling the position of the sail was not a sheet but a foreguy--highly technical points not explicitly covered by the rules, hence the confusion.

Petersson's ruling said, "Bowsprits are permitted . . . (but) a bowsprit is an outrigger . . . (and) a line attached to a spinnaker and led over or through a bowsprit . . . controls the setting of that sail and infringes IYRR 64.4."

New Zealand briefly held the Cup in 1988 when the New York Supreme Court ruled that the catamaran Dennis Conner used to beat the Kiwis' big monohull earlier that year was illegal. Later, the New York Court of Appeals overturned the decision and the San Diego Yacht Club kept the Cup.

This time, New Zealand was the only challenger with a bowsprit, which immediately raised questions. Nobody disputed whether it was legal, only how it was used.

"It's not covered by the rules at all," said Graeme Owens, chairman of the LVC jury. "You could have 10 international juries get together and each of them might come up with slightly different interpretations.

"But this match jury has agreed with let's say 90% of the LVC jury decision. The only difference is that . . . if your pole is not connected and your spinnaker is up and flying, or if your pole is not up when you're jibing or down early before you drop the spinnaker, during those periods of time, as soon as the pole is not on, the match jury says you would be infringing the rules if you're leading one of your lines through the bowsprit."

Owens said the LVC race committee--not under his jurisdiction--might amend the sailing instructions to force challengers to comply with the match jury's ruling after their third round of trials starting Saturday.

The challengers and defenders jointly asked the match jury to rule on the issue Feb. 3.

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