Ericsson appeal keel penalty

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The Independent Online

In a last ditch effort to avoid a highly damaging penalty, the first effects of which would be in tomorrow's opening inshore race of the Volvo Ocean Race, the Ericsson Racing Team today formally asked the jury which imposed it to re-open a hearing on the legality of the keel fin on one of its two boats, Ericsson 3.

The structure has been deemed by the scrutineering group to be outside the rule, even though the keel has been modified to make it 'solid' and an extra compensatory weight has been put in the boat.

"We have a strong team spirit," said E3 skipper Anders Lewander. "We're going to battle on." Ashore, as well, it would appear.

What Ericsson claims is new evidence was submitted to the jury chairman Bryan Willis. He will consult colleagues around the world to assess whether the new evidence is sufficient to reopen the case.

If not, E3's goose is cooked but whatever happens it will take some time to reconsider, with evidence from more than just Ericsson to be taken into account.

The Swedish team, whose Ericsson 4 boat, also designed by Juan Kouyoumdjian, is not affected, had been offered a stainless steel blank, by Team Russia, managed by former race director Michael Woods. It takes up to six weeks to mill the seven-tonne block down to size, but Ericsson said it was of the wrong dimensions.

If the Ericsson management team had been shocked by the jury's decision, effectively a 25 per cent points penalty, the real anger around the dock was that the crew of Ericsson 3 had been left to suffer the consequences of having to give up its own legal keel fin to Ericsson 4, skippered by Torben Grael.

"They have been treated like sacrificial lambs," said one rival competitor who did not want to be named.

It is only because of precautionary clause written into the race rules that allows a boat to race without a certificate, because repair and remeasurement in some ports may be difficult, that Ericsson 3 can race at all.

But all six rival boats had been consulted and agreed that action should be taken. Their sympathy is also for the Ericsson crew, rather than its management.

Lining up for the first time in Alicante was the crew of what is now Delta Lloyd, formerly the 2005-06 winning boat ABN Amro 1, but now being campaigned by Irishman Ger O'Rourke with a mixed nationality crew including both Irish and Dutch.

Campaign director Tom Tauber said there was €5m backing from Delta Lloyd for the team, which is still evolving. France's Sebastien Col will helm the boat in today's inshore race. O'Rourke will skipper the boat to Cape Town, but leaves for the next two legs to Kochi and Singapore, and also misses the 12,300-mile fifth leg from Qingdao, round Cape Horn to Rio de Janeiro.

Simon Daubney, one of the America's Cup-winning Alinghi team in both 2003 and 2007, will serve a two-year ban, backdated to 14 July 2007, for failing a banned substance (cocaine) test, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne has ruled. It upheld an appeal by the World Anti-Doping Agency against a ruling from the America's Cup jury which exonerated Daubney, who claimed that he had never knowingly taken a banned substance and that someone must have spiked his drink.

The CAS said that the Cup organisers "did not adopt anti-doping rules consistent with the world anti-doping code" and that "Daubney had not established that he bears no significant fault or negligence."

Daubney, a 49-year old Kiwi, left the Alinghi team last September saying he hoped to return after clearing his name.

The announcement dissuaded Alinghi boss Ernesto Bertarelli from giving a press briefing at the end of the Voiles de St. Tropez regatta. Optimism grows that his recent talks with rival Larry Ellison of BMW Oracle could lead to a breakthrough which would allow a multi-challenge America's Cup in 2010. The use of the word "evolution" in the Alinghi statement after the San Francisco meeting appears to mean restructuring the whole management of the event, perhaps for up to three events running up to 2016-17.

Triple gold and silver Olympic medallist Ben Ainslie is one of three new directors appointed by the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, which will host the sailing events for the 2012 Olympic Games. The other two are Rod Carr, chief executive of the Royal Yachting Association and former national Olympic coach, and John Derbyshire, performance director and racing manager of the RYA.