Several teams raise postponement issue

Many say those who request delays have abused rules

Sailing

October 31, 1999|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

With the first round robin of the Louis Vuitton Cup over but not forgotten, the 11 teams challenging for the America's Cup quickly got down to the business of streamlining the four-month elimination series to determine who will sail against Team New Zealand in February.

In the skippers' post-round meeting Friday, the issue of postponements was raised by several teams, including America True, one of five U.S. teams in the regatta.

At issue is rule 14.4 of the Louis Vuitton Cup Conditions. The rule is intended, in part, to allow disabled boats to request time for repairs before the start of a race.

But several teams believe the rule has been abused. Last Wednesday, for example, six teams requested delays as winds were close to the maximum 18 knots allowed for racing.

Race officials said no other major regatta in the world has such a rule, and America True helmsman John Cutler led an unsuccessful bid to have the rule dropped completely.

Rather than eliminate the rule, the challengers agreed to amend it before the start of round robin 2 on Nov. 6. As amended the rule would prohibit requests for delays after the five-minute gun for the prestart has sounded.

Meanwhile, Fast 200, the Swiss entry that was winless in the first round, unveiled its radical underbody yesterday.

While the other 10 boats have traditional underbodies with a single keel, trim tab, wings and one rudder, Fast 2000 has two keels and two steering wheels.

The keels are placed fore and aft, and the leading foil serves as the boat's primary rudder. The aft keel is fitted with a trim tab for fine adjustments in steering.

Both keels have large bulbs at their lower ends and were fitted with wings in Round 1. The wings have been removed for Round 2.

While Fast 2000 has shown flashes of straight-line speed, even its helmsman, Jochen Schumann, said the team still is uncertain how to steer the boat.

Fast 2000 was designed by Phillippe Briand and Peter Van Oosanen, who is credited with the breakthrough winged keel on Australia II, which, in 1983, became the first non-American team to win the America's Cup.

"We discovered in the towing tank that the resistance of two small bulbs separated along the hull is less than a conventional design with one keel bulb in the center," Van Oosanen said.

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