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Sailing: Measurers admit mistake in America's Cup scandal

SAN FRANCISCO – The America’s Cup Measurement Committee has admitted it made a mistake and that one of the three prototype boats owned by defending champion Oracle Team USA was not illegally modified during warm-up regattas last year.

The remaining challengers, Emirates Team New Zealand and Italy’s Luna Rossa, had both accused Oracle Team USA of cheating but Oracle Team USA chief executive Russell Coutts told The Associated Press that Friday’s admission shows the alterations were not a team-wide decision but individual errors.

Although the boats competed in America’s Cup World Series – warm-up regattas – and not the America’s Cup itself, the jury could punish Oracle with sanctions that could include a fine, forfeiture of races in the best-of-17 America’s Cup match or disqualification.

In a statement released Friday, the measurement committee cited “miscommunication and-or a misunderstanding” on its part in dealing with a boatbuilder who was preparing the 45-foot catamarans for the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup in early September.

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Measurers Admit Mistake In America’s Cup Scandal

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP) — The latest controversy in the America’s Cup took an interesting turn when the measurement committee admitted that one of the three prototype boats owned by defending champion Oracle Team USA was not illegally modified during warm-up regattas last year.

In a statement released Friday, the measurement committee cited “miscommunication and-or a misunderstanding” on its part in dealing with a boatbuilder who was preparing the 45-foot catamarans for the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup in early September.

It previously had been announced that three Oracle boats had been modified without the permission of the measurement committee.

Oracle Team USA has been branded as cheaters by the two remaining challengers, Emirates Team New Zealand and Italy’s Luna Rossa, who will meet in the Louis Vuitton Cup final starting Saturday on San Francisco Bay. The winner of that best-of-13 series advances to face Oracle Team USA in the 34th America’s Cup starting Sept. 7.

It’s not known whether the admission by the measurement committee will sway an international jury’s investigation into the illegal modification of the boats by adding about five pounds of ballast. The 45-footers were prototypes of the high-performance, 72-foot catamarans that are being used in this summer’s competition.

The jury could decide to punish individual employees or the syndicate itself. If the jury punishes the team, the sanction could be a fine, forfeiture of races in the best-of-17 America’s Cup match or disqualification.

“It doesn’t change the fact that we had some lead in the wrong place in the other boats and made some mistakes,” Russell Coutts, the CEO of Oracle Team USA, told The Associated Press. “But it does help show that it wasn’t a team-wide issue and this helps us to move forward, as well. I’ve always said management and the skippers were not involved.”

Oracle Team USA is owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle Corp.

Coincidentally, the boat that was cleared was Oracle Coutts 5, which was skippered by Coutts in some of the regattas in question. The boats that were illegally modified were ones sailed by Jimmy Spithill, Team Oracle USA’s skipper, and Ben Ainslie, an Olympic star who’s sailing with Oracle this summer in hopes of launching a British challenge for the 35th America’s Cup.

Last week, Oracle said it was forfeiting its two season championships in the ACWS as well as individual regatta championships.

Coutts said the team plans to apply for reinstatement of the results obtained by Oracle Coutts 5. He said that boat was used by a Red Bull Youth America’s Cup team in the regatta at Naples, Italy, last spring, and that that team had to forfeit its results, as well.

Oracle Team USA said last week that extra ballast had been put into struts near the front of the gennaker poles in the 45-footers.

He called it a “ridiculous mistake because it really didn’t affect the performance.”

A report from the measurement committee to the jury was released Friday.

It stated in part: “Perhaps due to confusion in nomenclature, miscommunication, and/or a misunderstanding on our part, previous statements made by ACRM boatbuilder Glyn Davies to the Measurement Committee were interpreted by us as implying that forward kingposts had been modified on multiple boats. Our understanding of those statements was contained in our original report to the Regatta Director. This report is intended to correct any misinformation in our original report in this regard.”

The kingpost is a strut.

The measurement committee’s mistake apparently was discovered on Tuesday when Oracle Team USA officials, who were conducting their own investigation, asked to see the boats. It was then that they were told that the measurement committee never looked at the boats.

Regatta director Iain Murray seemed non-plussed.

“Obviously communications between Oracle and the measurement committee and Davies, and what was written, was probably generalized,” Murray said. “At the end of the day, I don’t think it changes facts. There were illegal parts found. Whether they were on two or three boats, it wouldn’t change the problem.”

Meanwhile, powerhouse Emirates Team New Zealand will take on former training partner Luna Rossa for the right to face Oracle Team USA for the oldest trophy in international sports.

The Kiwis had the best record after the round-robins and advanced straight to the challenger final. Since their last race on July 28, they put their 72-foot catamaran in the shed for modifications, practiced for a few days and then returned to the shed for more refinements.

“We set a new top speed record the other day at the end of practice,” skipper Dean Barker said this week. “I can’t say what it is, but almost every day the boat’s going faster and faster and becoming more efficient. There are pretty good smiles coming off the boat.”

The fastest known speed by an AC72 was set by the Kiwis on July 18 when they hit 44.15 knots, or 50.8 mph.

Luna Rossa swept Artemis Racing in four races in the semifinals.

Luna Rossa, backed by the Prada fashion house, bought a first-generation design package from Emirates Team New Zealand to jump-start its program after entering the 2013 America’s Cup late.

“Our boat is a first generation and the boats aesthetically look similar, but there are quite a few differences,” Luna Rossa helmsman Chris Draper said. “If we had the opportunity to redesign things, then there are things we would’ve designed differently, which I imagine are the things they’ve done differently with their second boat. At the same time, there’s not another design package we would’ve chosen to share.”

The Kiwis went 5-0 against the Italians in the round-robins, including the opener that Luna Rossa boycotted because of a rules dispute. The Kiwis twice beat the Italians by more than 5 minutes, and the closest margin was 2:19.

At the very least, the Italians certainly stand out. Their boat’s twin hulls are chrome and their silver sailing gear, including crash helmets and life vests, make them look a bit like spacemen.

Two, five-leg races are planned each day. Each race will last approximately 25 minutes, with a break of about 30 minutes between races.

The same format will be used in the America’s Cup match next month.

(Copyright 2013 CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved.)

%name Measurers Admit Mistake In Americas Cup Scandal


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Pontoons help keep boating industry afloat

If ever a pontoon boat could be called luxurious, it would be the $138,000 “toon” that has a built-in bar, with a foot rail and purse hooks, and has plush sofas more akin to a yacht.

In a hurry to get across the lake? Twin 300-horsepower outboard engines push the Premier 290 Grand Entertainer pontoon to 51 mph, much faster than almost anything else in its class.

A stainless steel cooking grill, sink and refrigerator are standard equipment on the 29-foot Grand Entertainer, made by Premier Marine Inc. of Wyoming, Minn.

The bar has an overhead rack for inverted stemware.

“It’s a little over the top for my taste, but if you do a lot of dockside entertaining it will be a popular gathering spot,” said Charles Plueddeman, a Fond du Lac-based writer for Boats.com who toured the Grand Entertainer at the Miami Boat Show.

The boat is probably way over the top for most people, but it’s an example of how far pontoons have come in terms of amenities and performance more often found on their fiberglass V-hull cousins.

Pontoons, once considered an ugly duckling by some boating enthusiasts, have led the recreational marine industry out of the worst slump in decades.

In May, sales of aluminum fishing boats 16 feet and longer were up 9% from a year earlier, fiberglass-deck boat sales remained down, but pontoon sales were up 18%, according to industry figures.

“It’s the only segment of the powerboat industry that has really shown growth since 2007,” Plueddeman said.

Thankfully, for those of us who can’t afford a $138,000 boat, there are plenty of smaller, less expensive pontoons including 16-footers with comfortable chairs and modest-size engines capable of speeds of about 15 mph.

Modest-size pontoons, between 20 and 22 feet in length, have led the resurgence in recreational boating because they’re affordable and can carry up to a dozen or so passengers.

Pontoons also can be customized for many purposes including fishing and SCUBA diving.

“For lake boating, it’s hard to beat them,” Plueddeman said. “You start with this basic notion of a flat surface on top of two buoyant logs, and the sky’s the limit on what you can do with it.”

Often, pontoon boats about 20 feet in length sell for between $14,000 and $20,000, said Tim Allen, vice president of MirroCraft, a boat manufacturer in Gillett.

It’s the “sweet spot” in the pontoon business, he said.

In 2012, Allen and three other MirroCraft executives bought the company, which has been making aluminum fishing boats in Wisconsin for more than 50 years.

Last September, they launched their first pontoon boats, named “Montego Bay” after a Mercury Montego automobile that MirroCraft President Mike Belongia saw when he was searching for names.

“The first names we thought of were like ‘North Bay.’ But our sales reps said they wanted something that sounded warm and fun, and then out of the blue Mike came up with this name because he was following a Montego car on the highway,” Allen said.

MirroCraft pontoons are aimed at the middle of the market for people who want to play on inland lakes and not spend $100,000 for a boat.

“We were hoping to sell a couple of hundred in the first year, and that’s very achievable. The dealers we have aren’t demanding that we get into the real fancy, high-end stuff,” Allen said.

There are other manufacturers in Wisconsin, too, including TMC Inc., which has been building pontoons in Barron County since 1956. TMC built a boat for the movie “Grumpier Old Men,” starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.

The family-owned company, which began as a blacksmith shop, built an 88-foot pontoon boat that’s used for dinner cruises. It has sold boats across the United States, including Alaska, and in Europe and South America.

Probably the most unusual pontoon in Wisconsin is the Pontoon Porch, a double-deck rental boat that carries up to 30 people and is all about partying on Madison’s Lake Monona.

The Pontoon Porch has a gas grill, an iPod-ready sound system, a trapdoor for fishing and swimming, porch furniture, and more for a rental fee of $650 for three hours.

Owner Joe Shulla of Madison built the 23,000-pound boat, which looks more top heavy than it really is and putters along at 5 mph with the wind at its back.

He rents the boat to party-goers from June through the middle of October and says it brings in about $80,000 in rental fees during that period.

Shulla wants to build more of the behemoth pontoons and sell them to entrepreneurs so they can offer a similar experience on lakes or rivers outside of Madison.

“It could be a bar or a restaurant doing the same thing I am doing,” Shulla said, adding that the Pontoon Porch concept is best suited for a metropolitan area, where there’s a good view of the city from the water.

Pontoon rentals are available in Milwaukee, on the Milwaukee River and in the Lake Michigan harbor, from the Milwaukee River Cruise Line.

The Good Time Boat Club has rental boats on Pewaukee and Okauchee lakes in Waukesha County available for the day or the season.

This year the club is offering kind of a time-share program for people who want to use a pontoon occasionally but not be saddled with ownership costs.

Pontoons have overtaken Kawasaki Jet Skis in popularity in Good Time Boat Club’s rental fleet, said general manager Kathy Kreitlow.

There are some downsides to pontoons. They’re harder to haul on a trailer than a lighter, slimmer boat with a V-shaped hull, and they’re not as well-suited for rough water.

Some of the smaller ones, such as the 16-foot Bass Buggy, can be powered with an electric trolling motor and are able to cruise shallow areas that many other boats couldn’t reach.

If you want to go fast and party like a yachtsman, why not buy a regular boat? Well, a big pontoon could take 20 people out to the sandbar and have the stability of a floating patio while still crossing a lake in minutes.

Even a smaller one is ideal for entertaining a few people.

“It’s sort of like being on the deck behind your house,” Plueddeman said.


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Antigua Sailing Prize On the Line Saturday

web Antigua Race

By Gavin Menu

The Antigua Barbuda Hamptons Challenge Regatta will be held in Sag Harbor and at the Breakwater Yacht Club for the second consecutive year this Saturday, August 17 and at stake is one sweet sailing trip for the winning captain and crew.

Participation in the race is up 40 percent this year, according to Rob Roden, who helps organize the event for the Antigua Barbuda Ministry of Tourism and its minister, John Maginley.

Two local organizations, the Breakwater Yacht Club’s Junior Sailing program and I-Tri, a Hamptons-based program that helps young at-risk girls through participating in triathlons, will benefit from the race.

Thirty-five boats will compete for the grand prize of an all-expenses paid trip for seven to Antigua including airfare through American Airlines, seven nights lodging at a four-star hotel and an elite charter boat to compete in the 2014 Antigua Sailing Week, one of the premier sailing events in the world, which will take place from April 26 through May 2 of next year.

Last year’s Sailing Week featured crews from 26 different countries, sailing what people in the industry believe to be some of the best tracks anywhere in the world.

“It’s the largest amateur sailing prize on the east coast of the United States,” Roden said, adding that people can visit www.VisitAntiguBarbuda.co.uk to learn more about the destination and what will await the winner.

The winner of last year’s event was Jim Ryan aboard Wasn’t Me, and as a result he and some members of his crew and family traveled to the islands last spring and competed in Antigua Sailing Week.

“We had a blast,” he said earlier this year, adding that one rule of the event prohibits the same person from winning the grand prize for a second time. “It’s an exceptional prize. We had a great boat and there were races every day for a week.”

In addition to the sailing on Saturday, there will be a post-race gala and awards ceremony at Havens Beach, which will include a steel drum band, hors d’oeuvres and an open bar. Tickets are $45 in advance, or $50 at the door. Advanced tickets can be purchased by visiting www.AntiguaBarbudaHamptonsChallenge.com.

 

 

 


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