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America's Cup- Oracle sailing crew implicated in AC45 Measurement bust

by Richard Gladwell on 12 Aug 2013
One of the illegal AC45’s sailing in the America’s Cup World Series events in Naples ACEA - Photo Gilles Martin-Raget © http://photo.americascup.com/

A previously confidential report by the Chairman of the Measurement Committee reveals that according to an internal inquiry by Oracle Team USA, one member of their sailing crew was involved along with three members of the team Shore crew in the AC45 Measurement incident which broke late last week.

The incident relates to the finding on July 26, that a builder supplied part of three AC45's managed by America's Cup Defenders Oracle Team USA, had been tampered with, and had over 2kgs of ballast added to it.

The discovery was made by boatbuilders working for America's Cup Regatta Management (ACRM).

The amount of additional weight added is miniscule, and it is equally hard to understand why it would be located forward in the boat, however the point is that it was a breech of the class rules for the AC45 - which is a one design manufacturer supplied class.

The flipside of that situation is the time taken to clear off what should have been a very simple matter of the team identifying the people involved, the circumstances, and providing the Measurer with an explanation - all within 24 hours. Maybe they could have avoided the ignomy of withdrawing from the last four events of the America's cup World Series, of which Oracle team USA had won three and finished second in the other.

Instead what should have been a minor error, has dragged on for over two weeks and now the investigatory phase of a Rule 69 Hearing has got underway involving a substantial number of the team members, at a time when they should be preparing for the Defence of the America's Cup.

That situation is not of the Measurer's or Jury's making - but of Oracle Team USA. And their fans have got to ask why?

The AC45s were sailed in nine America's Cup World Series Regattas in USA, UK and Europe as a preliminary to the America's Cup Regatta currently being staged in San Francisco.

Late last week August 8, 2013 almost two weeks after the discovery of the use of unmeasured parts, Oracle Team USA issued a media statement saying that they had decided to withdraw from the last four rounds of the America's Cup World Series after a Protest had been made by the Regatta Director, Iain Murray to the International Jury attaching a report from the Measurement Committee.

Murray's accompanying note to the Jury requested confidentiality on the matter citing potential damage to the event, however this issue was put into the public domain four days later.

The Oracle Team USA media release did not mention that, while their offer to withdraw had been accepted by the Regatta Director, the matter was still subject to an investigation by the International Jury under the provisions of International Sailing Federation's Racing Rules, and specifically Rule 69 dealing with Allegations of Gross Misconduct.

That investigation is currently underway in San Francisco, where various members of Oracle Team USA are being interviewed by the International Jury.

Class Measurement infringements often result in serious penalties, including suspension from the sport. The investigation will usually focus not just on those who are directly involved, but anyone who had knowledge of the infringement, and failed to take action.

The Full Report from the Measurement Committee, reporting to Iain Murray, the America's Cup Regatta director reads:

On July 26, 2013, the Measurement Committee were notified by ACRM boat builders preparing AC45 yachts for the Youth Americas Cup that the forward kingpost belonging to the AC45 yacht Ben Ainslie Racing (boat 9 ex-Aleph) was unusually heavy. The Measurement Committee inspected and weighed this kingpost.

The suspect forward kingpost appeared to have been filled with a resin/ballast slurry of some type. and weighed 3.744 kg.

The Measurement Committee inspected an AC45 kingpost that showed no evidence of having been modified, and found that it weighed 1.390 kg, a weight difference of approximately 2.35 kg

The Measurement Committee could not independently verify that the modified forward kingpost belonged to BAR, other than the fact that the BAR yacht did not have a forward kingpost installed while we were weighing the one reported to have been removed from that yacht.

We did not weigh forward kingposts from the other AC45 yachts belonging to OTUSA. but the ACRM boatbuilders reported to us that they were similarly heavy.

Later that afternoon we met with Richard Slater rules advisor to OTUSA and reported our findings. Mark Turner OTUSA construction manager, called me later that evening and said he would get to the bottom of the situation, but said he had no prior knowledge of it.

Between Friday 26th July and Wednesday July 31 the Measurement Committee chairman had several further conversations with both Mark Turner and Richard Slater about their in-house investigations.

Mark Turner confirmed that he had determined based on interviews that all three AC45 yachts competing in the ACWS and maintained by OTUSA (Boats 4 5 and 9) had been modified in a similar fashion and that boats 4 and 5 were modified by the insertion of bags of lead shot into the kingpost He further reported that he had identified the responsible persons which included a member or members of the shore team charged with the maintenance of the AC45 yachts as well as at least one member of the sailing team.

Mr Turner also confirmed that to the best of his ability to determine, the modifications to boats 4 (Oracle Team USA Spithill) and 5 (Oracle team USA Coutts) had been made during or prior to the Newport ACWS regatta in June, 2’012.

Ben Ainslie Racing (boat 9) did not compete in an ACWS event while under the control of OTUSA until the first San Francisco regatta in August of 2012, so it is unknown to the Measurement Committee when that boat might have been modified.

The AC45 Class Rule C 1 5 prohibits modification to components of the yacht without permission from the Measurement Committee. Permitted modifications are posted on the official Noticeboard. No request has been made for modifications of this type nor would such permission be granted if it were to be requested.

The AC45 Rule 0.1 6 stipulates that corrector weights. if required, are to be fitted within 0 420m of the chain plate bulkheads. The forward kingpost does not fall within this permitted region.

The modifications appear to be intentional efforts to circumvent the limitations of the AC45 class rule, and are therefore serious in nature.

Nick Nicholson. Chairman
For the Measurement Committee


As a footnote, three of the current International Jury were involved in the apparently simple case, satrting in May 2005, leading to the 32nd America's cup in Valencia, of determining whether a designer Phil Kaiko was entitled to leave one team (Mascalzone Latino) that had not at that time entered, but was formed and intending to do so. Kaiko wanted to join a Spanish team, El Reto.

The apparently simple case became complicated, eventually being decided in favour of Mascalzone Latino and cost El Reto an eye watering 134,000 Euro in Jury costs alone (of a total cost for the process of 180,000 Euro). In the end El Reto did not progress to the 32nd America's Cup.

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