Tuesday, 9 February 2010

AC33 | America’s Cup Umpiring (1)

Besides the Jury, Measurers and Race Committee there’s a fourth group of ISAF officials active at the AC 33. I’m talking about the Umpires!

We all are in the dark about how these impressive sail machines will perform against each other, but imagine how difficult it must be, having to umpire them.
When these boats were first revealed to the public and it became clear how powerful and fast they would be, I predicted that there would not be any umpiring. They were just too fast to keep up with and too big to maneuver in the prestart. Boy, was I wrong…..

I’ve contacted Chief Umpire Bill Edgerton and asked him and his team to tell us something about how that is going. I prepared some questions and send them by Email. We agreed he would answer them after having umpired the first match.
Although that has not happened yet, he found the time to send me some answers. So here’s the first instalment. I’ve put Bill’s reply in light blue font.

The AC 33 Umpire Team:
Bill Edgerton (GBR), John Standley (AUS), Roger Wood (NZL), Gerard Bosse (FRA)

The NoR and SI change the RRS (including app C) in many ways. Did the umpire team have any influence on those changes? Were there any changes directly (or indirectly) done, because how the Umpires have to "operate" to umpire these matches?
There have been 4 SI or NOR changes originating from us since we started having an input on the event, one of which deleted RRS 13.2, all done with mutual consent from the teams.
None of them were done because of how we will operate, all of them relate to the type and configurations of the racing boats and course.

Did you and your team get a chance to sail on the yachts? You've been following the boats for a couple of days before and you've now umpired the first match. What can you tell us about the umpiring these AC33 boats - specifically what are the differences between these and "regular" match races.
We have not been on board the yachts when they were sailing yet, but have learnt a lot from watching them, one runs out of adjectives to describe how amazing and fast they are.

How do you communicate with the boats? Are you using a flag-system as in regular match racing or/and any other system (radio's, light-system for overlap, zone etc,) If so, can you tell us how that works? Do you have camera's on board of the rib? Do you have to broadcast to the media and explain your decisions?
There have been some procedures issued which relate to the method we will operate regarding radio communications of hails and Y or B flags and so forth, in addition to the requirements of the RRS, and other things.
We are not offering any information to the boats on radio or lights beyond a radio signal of the umpires response to a Y flag and a yellow or blue flashing light, if there is a penalty.
We don't have cameras or anything like that, time was too short to organize any technical assistance. The distances involved mean the communication to the media is by Satellite phone, we are well out of range of the mobiles. We will do media calls on a range of subjects.

What calls did you make in the first match? Can you tell us about the situations you encountered?

Are you planning to change the system now you've umpired the first match?
Will the team record and document all calls? If so, will these be published?
What strikes you as the biggest difference between AC33 and AC32 - from an umpire point of view?
Anything else you want to tell the readers of LTW?

Hopefully Bill can answer these last questions in a next mail.

day1 waiting for the start 2 Day one; waiting for a start. Which ones are the Umpire boats?
Photo from AC33 website © Pedro Armestre/AFP/ 33rd America’s Cup

Next expected posting on Thursday 11 February.

If you have a question for Bill or the others of the Umpire Team, please put them in a comment and I’ll see if I can get them answered.
For now, I wish the whole team the best of luck in the first match!



  1. Excuse my ignorance but what is Rule 13.2 (said to be deleted at the usggestion of the umpires)? I can't find it in my rule book.

  2. In normal match racing there is a 'gybing' rule 13.2. You can find it in Appendix C. Like with rule 13 in fleetracing. (That rule is now 13.1 in matchracing)
    Rule 13.2 says: a boat sailing downwind has to keep clear of other boats, after the foot of the mainsail crosses the centreline until her mainsail has filled.
    With the fixed wing of USA 17 that would be very diffucult for the umpires. When is a wing filled?
    I suspect that is the reason the have deleted this particular rule.

  3. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.


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