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OneWorld vs. Prada: What's the Score?

OneWorld has scored its one-point penalty in the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger semifinals, so now it's a best-of-seven series against Prada that may require an eighth race.

Or is it?

Challenger series regatta director Dyer Jones has applied to the Arbitration Panel to alter the penalty, so that instead of OneWorld going into each round one point down, the opposition would start one point up.

The Challenger of Record Management (CORM), which Jones runs, hoped the change could apply from the current semifinals, in which OneWorld are racing Prada. OneWorld beat Prada by 47 seconds Monday in the first race.

Jones, a former New York YC commodore, said he had taken the action partly because the penalty clashed with the rules governing the challenger series. In the current round, those rules said the first boat to win four points was the winner, but now if OneWorld won four points they would have only three on the scoreboard, he said.

The CORM application raises the possibility that OneWorld could still win the round with only those three points. Jones said also said if OneWorld were required to win an extra point, the penalty could add an extra race to any contests in which the team were involved.

The question was put to moderator Bruno Troublé at the post-race press conference Monday night.

Troublé could only say, "The question is, is the point deducted from OneWorld or given to Prada? They are flying back to Europe now and we expect the decision to be taken before Thursday night."

Grinders Center Stage

It may have been the funniest press conference so far. As the schedule plods on, the skippers grow weary of facing the same media faces and answering the same silly questions day after day, so they mix it up by sending crew members to the sessions. OneWorld and Alinghi sent grinders---Andrew Taylor and John Barnitt, respectively.

Taylor was asked, "Why did you take so long to change your [torn] spinnaker on the last run?"

He replied, "The first thing we said when our sail designer, Robert Hook, joined our team, was that all those AmericaOne spinnakers that blew up last time were green so we didn’t want green spinnakers. So ours are blue and they hadn’t been blowing out until today. We haven’t had too much training and we were a bit slow at getting the next one up, but it’s something we don’t want to get too good at, that’s for sure."

Barnitt, an American who was a grinder for Dennis Conner on the original Stars & Stripes at Fremantle in 1987, said, was even funnier.

Q: John, you enjoyed a nice shift to the right on the first beat. Did Russell [Coutts] and Brad [Butterworth] anticipate that before the start?

Barnitt: "I don’t know. They didn’t confer with me what the strategy was going to be."

Q: "They don’t tell the crew before the start where they want to go on the first beat?"

Barnitt: "Well, they didn’t get it to the grinders. That may come as a surprise, but it happens once in a while."

Weren't You Watching . . .?

OK, let's try to get serious here. The next question was addressed to Oracle BMW skipper Chris Dickson.

Q: "Chris, this is your first loss since you took over the sailing program. Do you know why you lost today?"

Dickson: "Yes, we got beaten by Alinghi who were doing a very nice job today."

Let's try again.

Q: "Chris, have you been surprised by Alinghi’s start tactic to do a starboard start and keep going on the right hand side?"

Dickson: "No, not at all. It was a very aggressive pre-start and Russell and Brad and Co. were fighting very hard to get to that right hand side. Although Russell didn’t consult with me any more than he consulted with his own team, it was pretty clear they wanted the right."

The More Breeze the Better

Monday's breeze, sometimes touching 20 knots, was near the official limit for starting races, but the sailors wouldn't mind pushing it a bit. Sunday's racing was abandoned at just a few more knots.

Dickson said, "We don’t know exactly what wind speed the race committee is getting. All they tell us is that we’re starting on time or, if it’s delayed, we presume it’s because it’s a little bit over the limit. From Oracle BMW’s point of view, we certainly advised the race committee [Sunday] that, although we presumed that the breeze was a little bit over, we were happy to race in those conditions.

"It’s a little embarrassing to be towing home when the junior kids off the beach are practicing in their P-Class, I must admit. We [would have been] happy to go racing."

Prada's Francesco de Angelis said, "As Chris explained, usually there are fixed limits and yesterday we were not asked. I’ve seen all the boats practicing in more wind than what you would need to start the race so I think everyone would be ready to go. I think everybody would be ready to race in conditions above the limit."

A Grinder Has the Last Word

Finally, the inquisition came full circle back to Taylor, the humble OneWorld grinder.

Q : "Andrew, what do you regard the score as?"

Taylor: "I don’t know who asked me to come to this press conference tonight, but it probably wasn’t the best one to come to."

Compiled by Rich Roberts

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