Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Seaworthy? Oracle's Ellison - We certainly never intended for people to be hurt CBS//Charlie Rose

America's Cup boats sailingI am not a curmudgeon about hydro-foiling ultra-expensive sailboats.  But I am a lawyer and person concerned about seaworthiness - an issue on which the organizers have failed, as I recently discussed here.  As you can see in this video Both Prada and Team NZ suffered major damage on the first race of the challenger series.  And Team NZ lost two crew overboard - and continued the race, leaving their two grinders to be picked up by the crash boats.  Below is Oracle team president Larry Ellison speaking with Charlie Rose - defending their effort.
Ellison says that an extreme sport should be risky with "the illusion of danger".  He acknowledges that they might go back to the "much safer" 45 footers.  But Andrew Simpson died on a not-yet-foiling 72 footer that capsized due to a structural failure.  There is legal liability there for the consequence of the structural failure.  But was the Artemis team's boat also unseaworthy due to unsportsmanlike behaviour by the race sponsors?
Seaworthiness in this context is synonymous with sportsmanship.  Racing has its origins in the seaman's paired priorities: to get to the fishing ground or port safely and quickly. The safety of the crew is vital to seaworthiness because the seaman's help is needed.  Ellison stated that principle clearly.  So there is no corruption at the heart of the effort.  But what about their decision?
When they adopted the AC 72 design rule the designers did not realize that the parameters permitted a lifting hydrofoil.  When the New Zealanders (of course) surprised them all with its foiling boat, all raced to redesign their boats to meet the competition.  But the effort crashed up against the race deadline. Experimental and unseaworthy boats were brought to the starting line of the championship.  Prototypes, not production models, one might say.  Seaworthiness is a strict liability concept.  Not fault but fitness for the voyage is being measured.