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Top Yachting Official recognised in Australia Day Honours List

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com on 27 Jan 2014
David Tillett second from right, with the other members of the 34th America’s Cup Jury (from left John Doerr, Graham McKenzie, Josje Hofland, and Bryan Willis) ACEA /Gilles Martin-Raget

One of the world's leading sailing administrators, David Tillett, has been recognised in the Australian Honours List. He has been made a Member of the Award of Australia.

As a competitor, Tillett had early sailing success winning the World Cadet Championship at 16 years old. However it is as a yachting administrator that the Adelaide based lawyer has made his mark on the sport.

He has been a member of every Olympic Jury since Savannah in 1996, and was Chairman of the Olympic Jury at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

Similarly with the America's Cup he was an International Jury Member at the 2003 and 2007 Louis Vuitton and America's Cups, and has been the International Jury Chairman for the 2010 and 2013 America's Cups. He was also an Umpire in the 1992, 1995, 2003 and 2007 Louis Vuitton and America's Cups.

It is in the latter role that Tillett has been most tested; taking a sideline role during the numerous Court Hearings that accompanied the 2010 Deed of Gift match. Eventually the New York Supreme Court appointed an Expert Panel, headed by Tillett to advise on key technical questions in the Final hearing - which determined the outcome of the case. The Court accepted the Recommendations of the Expert Panel.

In the 2013 America's Cup, Louis Vuitton Cup and America's Cup World series were littered with Jury Hearings - with no less than 36 separate issues over the course of the event, with three standout Hearings in which Jury did not find in favour of the Defender Oracle Team USA. The first involved the use of hydrofoils, by Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa, which would allow full foiling. Oracle and Artemis were both against full foiling AC72's however the Jury, under Tillett overruled a Measurement Committee decision and opened the way for full foiling AC72's.

The second incident involved members of Oracle Team USA's spy boat crew getting too close to Challenger Luna Rossa in Auckland - which cost them five days ashore at the end of the second limited sailing period at the end of April 2013.

Tillett led the International Jury through one of the most acrimonious incidents in America's Cup history with the allegations of cheating against Oracle Team USA sailing and shore crew members over boat tampering with three AC45's during the America's Cup World Series. The Hearings extended over six weeks, with two members of the Oracle Team USA sailing and shore crew being suspended from the Regatta, another suffered a four race day suspension, and another two were reported to their National Authorities and the International Sailing Federation. That matter is still ongoing with suspensions from the sport by the ISAF expected.


The Cheating Hearing was notable for the level of legal scrutiny, with all six sailors involved being represented by legal counsel once they had been named in the first phase, and clearly the Jury had to tread a very fine line between the requirements of the sailing judicial process, and the US legal process and individual rights under that system.

Tillett was also Jury member Chairman for the 2008/09 Volvo Ocean Race.

He also has given long service to the International Sailing Federation, being an Area L (Oceania) representative to the ISAF Council since 1998, and was Chairman of the ISAF's Racing Rules Committee from 2000-2012, as well as holding several other prominent roles in the World sailing body.

Tillett has been an ex-officio Board member of Yachting Australia from 1996 to present, as well as holding other prominent positions within the national body.

Several other Australian sailing identities were also recognised in the Australia Day Honours including 2012 Olympic Gold Medalists Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen (49er); Tom Slingsby (Laser) Matt Belcher (470) and Daniel Fitzgibbon (Paralympics). Long time Australian sailing journalist Peter Campbell and Bob Oatley, principal of Team Australia and benefactor to numerous Australian teams and sailors were also recognized.

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