“It's absolutely clear that we are totally innocent and that we have complied with the rules”. Clear and resounding; those were the words of Luis Sáenz Mariscal, Team Telefónica's regulations and legal adviser, after hearing that the International Jury had ruled that the Spanish team had not breached rule 5.2 of the NOR relating to the number of sails allowed per crew for the fourth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race between Sanya (China) and Auckland (New Zealand), which “Telefónica” finished in fourth place.
Today (Thursday) at 11:45 Itjaí time (14:45 UTC), the International Jury delivered its decision following a two hour hearing held yesterday in the Brazilian city, with the team's legal adviser Luís Saénz stepping up to represent the team.
“The International Jury claimed that we had infringed the Notice of Race by carrying two storm jibs on board for the fourth leg, where only one was permitted”, explained the lawyer from Madrid. “What we said was that it was totally legal for us to carry two storm jibs on board, and not only that, but we had consulted the body with the jurisdiction to interpret those rules: the Race Committee and after they had spoken to the International Jury they told us that we could go ahead with two and as such were in compliance with the rule”.
On the 16th of March when the fourth leg had finished, the Race Committee changed the interpretation of the rule, stating that instead of two storm jibs, only one would be permitted on board.
Luis Sáenz broke down the Team Telefónica defence into the following points: “Point 1: We had interpreted the rule correctly. Point 2: We had asked the Race Committee for permission. Point 3: The Race Committee had consulted with the International Jury to see if we were in the right or not and they gave us the all clear, giving us permission”.
“Once the leg was over, they changed the criteria, which they are well within their right to do and which is fine, as it would be if they changed the Notice of Race, but that change cannot be applied retrospectively. You cannot be penalised for a change made after a leg has been raced and in fact, in the leg from Auckland to Brazil we only carried one storm jib aboard”.
The end result of the protest found that “Telefónica” sailed the leg between China and Auckland in perfect compliance with the rule and as such the protest has been thrown out.
“This decision has been fundamental for us. Their verdict was that we were within the rule and had complied with the Notice of Race. Of course, we are relieved and satisfied with the outcome because a protest by an International Jury against a team is a matter of the utmost severity”, concluded Luis Sáenz Mariscal.