17 August 2013

I-Punkt (Admiral's Cup 1985 and 1987)

I-Punkt during the 1985 Admiral's Cup (photo Peter Neumann)
Recent media attention regarding allegations of 'improper conduct' around modifications to the Oracle AC45 catamaran have drawn comparisons with the high profile disqualification of Thomas Friese and a number of his crew from the Admiral's Cup and One Ton Cup in 1987, after revelations of cheating on Friese's One Tonner I-Punkt.

Friese, of Japanese/German extraction,had started his major offshore campaigns with his Peterson 42 Tina, which formed part of the German Admiral's Cup team in 1979. Tina and one of her team-mates Jan Pott  had to retire from the storm-tossed Fastnet Race of that year, and the German team finished in a lowly 11th place.
Tina from the 1979 Admiral's Cup

Friese came back in 1985 with the commissioning of a sistership to the Judel/Vrolijk 42's Container and Pinta, which were big high-freeboard IOR yachts sporting large fractional rigs. The new yacht, I-Punkt, was considered as as a 'Mk III' of the original Judel/Vrolijk 42 mould that had first been developed for the 1983 Admiral's Cup, being lighter than her sisters with reduced freeboard and sail area, and rated 32.0ft IOR (incidentally, the name I-Punkt translates in German as "the dot on the i", as in being 'on point').

I-Punkt was built in just four weeks by Udo Schutz and Yachtwerf Wedel and was launched on the eve of the German trials. The lack of tuning and preparation was evident, and, along with her sisterships, I-Punkt failed to make the German team and instead the trio sailed for Austria in the 1985 Admiral's Cup. Pinta was the only one of the team to really fire, finishing 12th overall. Both Container and I-Punkt retired from the windy Fastnet race which dragged the Austrian team to eighth overall in the final standings.

For the 1987 Admiral's Cup it was evident that I-Punkt was too small to have a chance to claim the 'big boat' slot in the German team. So Friese chartered the Japanese owned but German built Judel/Vrolijk One Tonner Dame Und Herr, and renamed her I-Punkt for the 1987 effort. I-Punkt missed selection and so again Friese sailed for Austria, alongside a new Pinta and the Dutch yacht Ritec Poinciana (a development of 1984 One Ton Cup winner Passion 2 by Phillipe Briand). I-Punkt sailed an inconsistent series but showed flashes of speed at times, with placings of 29/3/2/37/33 to finish as 21st yacht overall (and after suffering a delaminated rudder in the Fastnet Race finale). After a very weak performance by the outclassed Ritec Poinciana (40th place), and 12th by Pinta, the team finished in ninth place overall. 
I-Punkt during the Admiral's Cup
Events began to unfold at the 1987 One Ton Cup which was sailed in Kiel, Germany, a few weeks after the Admiral's Cup. Claims of cheating by an (initially) anonymous Australian yachtsman soon began to surface - not the usual accusations of moving sail bags to the weather side, but pointing to much more sophisticated forms of shifting ballast. The crew of I-Punkt were accused of moving up to 200 litres of water ballast during the preceding Admiral's Cup to boost her stability upwind, and was doing the same at Kiel. For yachts designed to a certain minimum level of stability under the centre of gravity factor component of the IOR rating formula, and which were limited to nine crew with water limited to 150 litres in secured tanks, this was a serious issue. The story was first reported on the front page of 'The Times' newspaper and over the airwaves of New Zealand's Radio Pacific while I-Punkt and the rest of the One Ton fleet were out in the Baltic competing in the 380 mile offshore race of the series. On their return to Kiel, two further crewmembers confirmed that the boat had been loaded up with 250 litres of water on the return leg from Sweden and had passed 11 boats, and that the extra loadings had twisted the mast at the gooseneck.
I-Punkt seen here after the 1987 Fastnet Race with her delaminated rudder visible - this no doubt contributed to her lowly 33rd place in that race (photo shockwave40 blog)
The International Jury at the One Ton Cup boarded I-Punkt to investigate and discovered a two-way bilge pump. I-Punkt's water tanks were removed to have their contents checked for salt traces but none was found. No evidence was forthcoming from her crew either, despite being questioned one by one. But without the promise of immunity, none of the crew were prepared to admit anything. The jury even tried to catch out any suspect activity by calling for a last-minute postponement of the short offshore race and sending inspectors aboard a number of suspected yachts. But again, no proof of improper behaviour was found, although the official results show that the English yacht Jamarella, which had finished second in the Admiral's Cup, was penalised '2x30 points' because of the discovery on two occasions of an unsecured five gallon fuel tank, which the crew insisted was spare fuel carried for seamanship reasons - this became an issue of whether it was a tank under rule 202.2 of the IOR, or 'ship stores' under rule 109.4. Jamarella dropped from third overall to sixth. Meanwhile, I-Punkt was initially recorded as finishing the series in ninth place, with race results of 5/8/10/20/20. 
I-Punkt in the marina during the 1987 Admiral's Cup (photo Ian W)
Sometime soon after the One Ton Cup, Australian crewmember and sailmaker Andrew Cape, who was tactician aboard I-Punkt (and is currently a top Volvo race navigator), brought some daylight to the water ballasting suspicions, confirming that the electric pump aboard I-Punkt, installed by Tom Swift, the yacht's paid hand, could draw in water as well as expel it. This was done by tapping into the engine water intake and installing a Y-valve and two-way bilge pump. As both the Admiral's Cup and One Ton Cup regattas had thrown up so many questions about cheating, the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC), as organising body of the Admiral's Cup, and in conjunction with the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), took action to have the Admiral's Cup jury reconvened. Cape's evidence was that the pump system allowed water to be pumped into ten or more collapsible water containers (rather than the fixed tanks) which were then stacked on bunks on the weather side - these containers could then be emptied on the downwind legs through the cockpit drains, and later cut and disposed of before the finish and before possible inspection. 
I-Punkt rounds a weather mark with German yacht Container seen to the right
The system was capable of creating 250kg of water ballast which was equivalent to three extra crew on the rail, and it was admitted that this additional ballast had been used in the Channel and Fastnet races during the Admiral's Cup, and in the first race of the One Ton Cup (where I-Punkt had finished fifth). Cape advised that he first realised what was happening when he heard the pump running at the leeward mark in the Channel Race. The effect of this action on the boat's performance was devastating. A hitherto mediocre boat gained nearly half a knot of extra speed. "We came from pretty much last One Tonner to second in one leg" said Cape, and indeed the boat went on to finish third in that race, behind the form One Tonners, Propaganda and Jamarella. Rick Dodson, skipper of Goldcorp, a member of the winning New Zealand team, remembers being passed: "There were times when we did not appear to be racing the same boats. On the fetch out to EC1 (the mid-channel mark during the Channel Race) I-Punkt came up behind us from nowhere. We pinched up as high as possible to stop them sailing over us, but they just bore off and sailed through our lee. It was extraordinary. She must have been going at least 2/10ths of a not faster, and once passed, quickly pulled away - a performance we never saw repeated during the inshore races!"
Above and below: I-Punkt in a downwind leg during the Admiral's Cup (photos Peter Neumann)
After a hearing of the matter by RYA councillors in November 1987, a ten year ban was imposed on Friese, the yacht's skipper Hubert Raudaschl, Cape and Swift on the basis of a clear violation of the International Yacht Racing Rule 75 for a "gross breach of sportsmanship", although other than for Friese, the sentences were "suspended" for up to six years. I-Punkt was subsequently disqualified from the Admiral's Cup, and disqualification from the One Ton Cup followed soon afterwards. The German national authority, the DSV, banned Friese from racing in West German waters for 18 months. 
Cockpit detail of I-Punkt (photo Ian W)
Twenty months after this ruling, Friese retained a Liverpool solicitor to commence civil proceedings against the RYA to take the club to the High Court. His case was that the RYA's hearing did not comply with the required standards of natural justice, in that he had been called to the hearing at short notice and had insufficient time to prepare his defence; that the offending pump had been installed by the builders of the yacht (the point being that this was not under his direction); and that the RYA's ten year ban was plainly at odds with the 18 month ban imposed by the DSV. The appeal sought costs in respect of the damage the ban had done to Friese's business and sporting reputation. In their revised ruling, issued sometime in mid-1989, the new panel of RYA councillors said the original sentence had been entirely appropriate, but decided unanimously to suspend the disqualification from March 1990.
iPunkt sailing upwind in fresh conditions (photo One Ton Facebook page)
Meanwhile, and while Cape did sailing an important service by exposing a serious malpractice, he was offered no immunity from prosecution. It cost him a great deal in legal fees to prevent the RYA from slapping a ten-year ban on him, as well as in potential earnings, and it is understood that Cape and other crew members were, in the end, subject to a three year ban only. It was reported that the RORC had left the Australian Yachting Federation to deal with Cape and the ban may have been amended by that organisation. The penalty on Cape was certainly not conducive to encouraging other crew from coming forward in respect of identifying similar or other dubious practices on other boats.
I-Punkt seen here alongside Jamarella (centre) at Plymouth Marina after the 1987 Fastnet Race (photo Shockwave40 blog)
The I-Punkt affair and issues around cheating during the 1987 One Ton Cup came up later that year at the 1987 Southern Cross Cup. The British team were absent from the series for the first time in its history. The cheating scandal, and insinuations that the British team had "bent", but certainly not broken, the IYRU rules on water ballast cost the team their sponsors. The sponsors had promised to meet the costs of shipping the boats and crews to the regatta, and in the end none of the individual owners were willing to meet the costs personally. Cheating again came up when officials boarded yachts after the second race and cited the Hong Kong yacht Switchblade and US yacht Sidewinder for incorrect measurement figures. Switchblade accepted a 10 percent-of-placings penalty, but the US team, incensed by the citing that related Sidewinder's measurement discrepancies (what skipper John Bertrand called "nitpicking") to the blatant cheating in the I-Punkt scandal, threatened to withdraw from the series. Fortunately, after a flurry of talks, postponements, press conferences, and a public apology from the host Cruising Club of Australia, the matter was dropped and the US team returned to the racing.
Another view of I-Punkt at the Admiral's Cup 1987 (photo Ian W)
The I-Punkt case demonstrated to the then International Yacht Racing Union (IYRU) that, if violation of its rules were proven, it did not have a mechanism in place to impose a binding worldwide ban on offenders. This drove the IYRU to create such a body, although this took some time to determine questions of liability should a sailor bring civil proceedings against the IYRU. However, a tribunal was established to enforce the previously unwritten contract: if sailors competed in yachting under the IYRU rules, then they agreed to be bound by those rules, with transgressions open to agreed review and sanctioning procedures. This system can now be seen through the International Sailing Federation 'Suspended Sailors' process, which presently features sailors that are banned from competition for periods ranging from one year to five years.
Thomas Friese and crew sailing the Mumm 36 World Champion Thomas I-Punkt - this photo from the Summer 1994 issue of North News
Friese came back to the top of the world sailing in or about 1994 in the new Mumm 36 class, and won the 1996 event in San Francisco with his yacht Thomas I-Punkt, and went on to win the event again in 1997 in Punta Ala, Italy, without having to sail the last race. He also campaigned an ILC40 yacht Omen in international competition in the mid-to-late 1990s - for the 1995 Admiral's Cup he courted further controversy by questioning the validity of the rating certificate of Italy's Brava Q8. 

I-Punkt in more recent times (above and below), now named Go

Reference sources for this article include The Champagne Mumm Admiral's Cup - An Official History, by Timothy Jeffery (1994), The International Yacht Racing Annual 1987-88, Seahorse magazine, New Zealand Yachting magazine and an article from the Sydney Morning Herald (Dec 27 1987). All effort has been made to resolve any inconsistencies between these various accounts.

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