In the grudge rematch this afternoon, Desafio Espanol 2007 bounced back from a poor start with some great downwind moves and socked it to Mascalzone Latino. Both teams were fired up for this one, which was evident from the exuberant celebrations by the team in green when they crossed the line.
However, Vasco Vascotto spotted a gesture he didn’t like the look of, and it came from Desafio’s Kiwi tactician John Cutler. Vascotto didn't take kindly to this, and made his feelings evident in the media zone after racing. “It’s disappointing the end of their victory was marred by an unsportsmanlike gesture from John Cutler. In my crew I have Spanish sailors and he - who is a Kiwi - doesn’t deserve to sail on a Spanish boat. The whole world saw this, and I hope the Jury saw it too.”
John Cutler responded: “I come from New Zealand and the gesture that I made doesn’t mean anything. We were all partying between us [the sailing team] and the men from the chase boat, and maybe some of my gestures were misunderstood.” Cutler added that if Mascalzone had a problem with something he’d done, he was ready to apologise.
Certain physical gestures carry more weight in some cultures than others, but the America’s Cup is a multinational event and if Cutler made the alleged gesture then he was naive to think that others might take offence where a Kiwi might not.
A protest under Rule 69 of the Racing Rules for unsportsmanlike conduct would not be beyond the realms of possibility, but that seems unlikely. In any case, one sailor told me that he has been on the receiving end of gestures every bit as offensive from Vascotto in previous regattas. So a Rule 69 against Cutler would have the whiff of hypocrisy.
Yesterday Vincenzo Onorato said he approved of the rematch because it was the fairest way to measure the sailing abilities of these two teams. On the water, Spain won. Let's hope that will be the end of it.