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Americas Cup Lawsuit Mooted For "Herbie" Foil Trimming Mod. (Updated)

Source Close To Team NZ Says Americas Cup Lawsuit Being Prepared Over "Herbie" Foil Trimming Modification

By Alastair Thompson

UPDATE At 3pm Saturday (NZT): The New Zealand Herald is now reporting Team NZ Boss Grant Dalton has ruled out taking a legal challenge over the "Herbie" modification :

Speaking on Radio Sport today Dalton said: "I only heard that a few hours ago. Absolutely not, in any shape form or any other way. It would be an incredibly bad thing to do."

Many in Team NZ had already dispersed, including the team's lawyer and rules advisor, Russell Green, so there was no way a challenge could be mounted, he said."

Dalton would not comment on whether he thought the "Herbie" system was legal or not.

Earlier this morning NZ Herald columnist Paul Lewis, writing from San Francisco, wrote a speculative description of how Oracle might have gained its performance advantage.

UPDATE At midday Saturday (NZT): As yet there is no confirmation via an additional source, nor any denial of the original report below.

The notes which were used as the basis of the report were also posted to TVNZ OnDemand's facebook page on Thursday afternoon by someone called Pyxis Mariner.

Meanwhile there is a spirited discussion about this report underway in the forums at, the discussion began as a result of remarks made by Talk Sports Radio DJ Tony Veitch.

At 6.24pm last night, shortly after the initial report was Tweeted by @ScoopNZ 3News posted a report with no sources named or additional information. Oddly the story is now gone, but there is a large discussion of the subject there left in place.

Also yesterday NZ Investment Advisor Lance Wiggs blogged about whether NZ should cheat more, like Oracle, here.

ORIGINAL REPORT : Team New Zealand is preparing a legal challenge in the wake of the remarkable Oracle Team USA up-wind speed turnaround in the Americas Cup Regatta which ended this Thursday morning (NZ Time) with a Team USA victory.

A source very close to the Team New Zealand camp who has recently returned to Wellington today told Scoop Independent News that the Team NZ camp had immediately realised that there was something wrong when after playing a race postponement campaign Team USA's boat's performance suddenly dramatically improved.

The basis of Team NZ's concerns are detailed in a report posted to which included a lengthy extract from notes which the report says, "are circulating in Auckland Media Circles", dated 23 September, but released to on the 26th. The notes are re-posted in full below.

According to the source spoken to by Scoop, Team New Zealand complained about changes made to Oracle's foil trimming system to the Cup Jury immediately following the lay-day, however they were told that they were "too late" to raise the issue.

In the article an Oracle spokesman is quoted as saying today:

"That the team used the same set of foils through the regatta and that the 'special foil adjuster system, was there before the regatta started'."

Scoop's source said that their understanding was that Team NZ was now actively preparing a legal challenge which would focus on the so-called "Herbie" modification which is thought to involve the use of aeronautical technology developed by Boeing for the 747 aircraft.

The source also said there was speculation in the Team NZ camp that Oracle Boss and Billionaire Larry Ellison might be willing to come to a settlement rather than see the case go to court.

Because Ellison has significant investments and business connections in Auckland there was some "debate controversy" around the idea of taking legal action.

The latest allegations of Oracle cheating in the Americas Cup contest come in the wake of Team USA already being found guilty and fined two race points for a cheating conspiracy involving the use of "weights" which was uncovered shortly before racing began.

The two race point penalty meant that Oracle's Team USA had to win 11 races rather than 9 races to win the trophy.


It is well recognised that Oracle was having serious foiling stability difficulties at the outset of the regatta and that their performance could not match that of ETNZ.

Half way through the series it was acknowledged that Oracle had fitted an automatic control to their hydrofoil trim, and that this modification was approved by the measurement authorities.

Since this modification Oracle's performance has almost unbelievably improved. This has been 'explained' by skipper Jimmy Spithill as being due to the superhuman efforts of the crew to improve their handling skills. However, in view of the intensive training Oracle were able to do, prior to the regatta, with their highly skilled team partner, it seems unlikely that only now have they discovered the 'magic bullet' they they clearly have. It is much more likely to be the result of the modifications, possibly enabled by their surprising decision to use their lay day card and the subsequent lucky postponements.

It must be remembered that this is the first time that this contest has been sailed by yachts 'flying ' on Hydrofoils and it is probable that new and different criteria should have been applied.

In the aeronautical world it has long been known that the stability of swept wing aircraft can rapidly be lost by uncontrolled yaw leading to a dangerous situation known as 'Dutch Roll'.

A device known as 'Little Herbie' was developed during the commissioning of the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jets over 40 years ago, to over come this tendency. Little Herbies, or 'Stability Augmentation Systems' (SAS) as these are now designated, are equipped with sensors such as Accelerometers and Gyros which can detect and instigate corrections to stability with a speed and accuracy which exceeds the ability of even experienced airline pilots. They are therefore now installed in virtually all swept-wing aircraft.

The 'legality' of this device has been justified and accepted on the basis that it does not actually 'drive' the trim of the foils.....this is still performed by the muscle power of the crew, via hydraulic linkages. That may be so, but the device, using its sensing and directives, has been described as 'automatic'. This implies that the trim of the foils is determined by what can only be described as 'superhuman' technology. If this technology has been used to overcome the foiling stability difficulties of Oracle it will have enabled the use of higher speed/lower drag foils which the crew would otherwise be unable to manage. This would give a significant speed advantage during foiling. This has been clearly in evidence since the modification. Improvement in stability and speed has been staggering.

The high speed/low drag foils do have a downside in light conditions where, due to their lesser lifting characteristic, foiling is difficult or impossible. This was also clearly seen in the abandoned Race 13 when ETNZ were only 4 minutes from the finish, with a lead of over 1000metres.

(continuing story)

© Scoop Media

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