04 November 2022
Disputes in the America’s Cup are as old as the competition itself.
Indeed, trace the history back to that very first race around the Isle of Wight in 1851 where a protest was lodged against the yacht America for rounding inside the Nab Tower light vessel, leaving it to the port hand side when the convention of the time when unspecified in writing was to pass to starboard, and it set the tone for the next 36 challenges for what became the America’s Cup.
When the fabulous silver ewer was conveyed to the New York Yacht Club on 8 July 1857, it came with conditions that are commonly known as the original Deed of Gift and within those conditions was the stipulation that the Cup be: “a challenge cup for friendly competition between foreign countries.”
However, fast-forward through the history of the competition and on-the-water protests and off-water disputes have been a hallmark of nearly every America’s Cup regatta, such is the desire and ambition to win by all competing.
And with so much on the line, in the modern America’s Cup the formation of an Arbitration Panel was deemed necessary to resolve disputes that fell outside of the racing rules of sailing or the individual class rules of the yachts themselves as well as being a vital source of arbitration between the Defender, the Challenger of Record or individual Challengers should the need arise.
For AC37, the panel has now been selected and is in place with David Tillett (Chairman) from Australia and Graham McKenzie from New Zealand, who were both on the AC36 Arbitration Panel, being joined by Bryan Willis from Great Britain.
Hugely respected in their own rights as sailors first and foremost, the Arbitration Panel brings great experience as Grant Dalton, CEO of America’s Cup comments: “I’m delighted to welcome back David and Graham from AC36 and of course Bryan who is very widely respected into their positions on the Arbitration Panel.
“We’ve assembled the very best in our sport for the role and their impartiality and wisdom is something that will ensure fairness and equanimity throughout AC37 in Barcelona.
“Individually they are all hugely respected in the sport, and specifically within the America’s Cup where they have so much experience.
“We simply could not have assembled better representatives to make up the panel. I wish them every success going forward.”
David continues in the role as Chairman of the Arbitration Panel, a post that he held during the 36th America’s Cup in Auckland having been chairman of the Jury which acted as the Arbitration Panel at AC34 in San Francisco (2010-2013). He was Chairman of the Jury at the 33rd America’s Cup in Valencia (2010) having previously served as a Member of the Jury in both the 2007 and 2003 America’s Cups.
David originally started his Cup career as an umpire in the 1992 Cup in San Diego and went on to the 1995 Cup in San Diego, the 2003 Cup in New Zealand and then Valencia in 2004-2007. He also served as a Member of the Olympic Jury continually through the 1996 to 2012 Games and was Chairman of the Olympic Jury at Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
He was awarded the honour of ‘Member of the Order of Australia’ for services to sailing in 2014 and inducted into the South Australia Sports Hall of Fame in 2021. Most notably, he was International Cadet World Champion in 1969 – a feat not to be underestimated! And most recently in October 2022, David was honoured with the Beppe Croce Trophy by World Sailing for outstanding voluntary contribution to the sport of sailing.
As a barrister and solicitor of the New Zealand Law Society since 1974, Graham attained a Master of Laws from Warwick University as well as holding numerous Directorships at listed and non-listed companies throughout his career.
His involvement with the America’s Cup began in 2004 as a Member of the International Jury for AC32. He then served as both an Arbitration Panel member and International Jury member for the 33rd Americas Cup (2008-2009). He was further appointed as one of a three-person Panel to advise the New York Supreme Court on the America’s Cup before becoming a member of the International Jury for the 34th America’s Cup (2010–2013).
Graham is the co-author of three books on the 32nd, 33rd and 34th America’s Cup and a member of the International Sailing Federation (now named World Sailing) Constitution Committee since 2008 alongside being a member of World Sailing’s Ethics Commission since 2013.
Bryan Willis was Rules Advisor to the Swedish Sverige team in 1980, the British Victory team in 1983, and the Australian Kookaburra Defence in 1987. He was instrumental in setting up the International Sailing Federation (now World Sailing) umpiring system and qualifying international umpires.
Bryan was a jury member and Chief Umpire for the America’s Cup in 1992, Jury Chairman and Chief Umpire in 2000 and 2003, Chairman of the combined Jury and Arbitration Panel and Chief Umpire in 2007, and member of the Arbitration Panels in 2010 and 2013.
He has been a member/chairman of no less than five Olympic Juries and many international championships.
He was for many years a member of the World Sailing Racing Rules Committee, a member of the Judges Sub-committee and chaired the Race Officials Committee and the Race Management Sub-Committee. In 2018 he received the World Sailing Beppe Croce Trophy for services to sailing and in 2020 was inducted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame.