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America's Cup- Two Kiwis escape hometown action in AC45 rules ruckus

by Richard Gladwell/ on 10 Apr 2014
Oracle Team USA sailing one of their AC45’s ACEA - Photo Gilles Martin-Raget ©
The two New Zealanders involved in the ruckus over boat tampering in the AC45 class prior to the 34th America's Cup have not had any further action taken against them by Yachting New Zealand.

The two New Zealanders named by the International Jury for the America's Cup were Andrew Walker and Matt Mitchell. They were subject to an investigation under the auspices of their national body Yachting New Zealand.

Under Yachting New Zealand Regulations the national body is required to set up a Hearings Committee and two commissioners Royden Hindle and Richard Brabant, both very experienced lawyers and sailors conducted the Hearing and Investigation process. Neither have been ISAF certified officials.

The report was released by Yachting New Zealand today.

The two Commissioners appointed by Yachting New Zealand are quite critical of the way the Hearings in USA were conducted, citing the asking of leading questions and similar; the procedural decisions made by the America's Cup Jury.

They also question why others identified in the International Jury evidence presented were not also named in their Decision and penalised, specific reference is made to Simon Tienpoint, who the Commissioners say: 'We are troubled by the fact that the ACIJ failed to include an allegation of gross misconduct against Simon Tienpoint.' Adding: 'We struggle to understand how a senior sailing member of OTUSA who admitted in an interview with ACIJ Jury members filling a kingpost on Boat BAR with resim should not have faced an allegation of serious misconduct under Rule 69 as Bryce Ruthenberg, Andrew Walker, Kyle Langford and Matthew Mitchell did.'

The Commissioners also says it has 'concerns about OTUSA members who had a part to play in the management and control of boat construction and assembly and were in a position of authority including giving directions to shore crew members....'

In the 27 page decision, several excerpts from the previously confidential transcripts of evidence are quoted. Specific reference is made to two other OTUSA crew members by the Hearing Commissioners, they are Piet van Nieuwenhuizen boat captain of Boat 4 and Andrew Henderson 'described by Bryce Ruthenberg as his 'direct manager'. Henderson is also described by Walker as Head of Rigging and the report says was 'the author of a master list, which was printed out and put on the workshop wall at the location where Boat BAR was being assembled.' The report claims that the list contained the line 'fill the kingpost'.

The Commissioners wonder why Henderson was neither interviewed or called as witnessed for the America's Cup Jury, 'nor was he the subject of a Rule 69 allegation'.

The incident blew up several weeks before the start of the 34th America's where several members of America's Cup Defender Oracle Team USA questioned by the International Jury after measurement irregularities were found. Several members of the team were accused of cheating and adverse findings were made against five of those. Six team members were found by the International Jury to be actually implicated in the issue, but one had no further action taken against him.

A total of five instances of boat tampering were identified by the International Jury, in three boats of the AC45 class which was supposed to be one design. Before the America's cup Jury Hearinsg started, Oracle Team USA withdrew both its boats from the four regattas in question, and handed back the trophies. The third boat, ben Ainslie racing did the same.

Two members of the Oracle Team USA were found by the International Jury, from to have lied to the judicial body for the America's Cup. This is a serious matter under the Protocol of the America's Cup which covered both the America's Cup World Series regattas sailed in AC45 wingsailed catamarans, and the America's Cup itself.

The Hearings by the International Jury were conducted during the 34th America's Cup after measuring irregularities were found during scrutineering for the America's Cup Red Bull Youth Series. The America's Cup Jury Hearings took over six weeks to complete. Members of the International Jury came from five countries (AUS, GBR (2), NZL, NED), four were ISAF IJ's, two were lawyers by profession, another a former Magistrate (UK). All had previously sat on at least America's Cup Juries.

The full story on the International Jury announcement on September 3, 2013, just four days before the start of the 34th America's Cup can be read by clicking here

The incidents took place during four rounds of the America's Cup World Series, where one design boat parts were altered by Oracle Team USA members. Those crew belonged to the shore and sailing crew, and the team was penalised two points in the America's Cup itself, meaning that the Defender had to win 11 races to beat the Challenger, Emirates Team NZ who only had to win nine races.

In the end the event went right down to the 19th race and Oracle Team USA won by 9-8 on points.

Three of the crew members named were reported to the National Authorities, being Koninklijk Nederlands Watersport Verbond (the Netherlands national sailing authority or KNWV) and Yachting New Zealand.

Two Australians involved were named by the International Jury. A second wingsail trimmer with Oracle Team USA, Kyle Langford (AUS), was named by the America's Cup Jury, but they took into account his age and inexperience in the America's Cup environment and issued a warning. Langford at just a few days notice took over de Ridder's role on the Defender's AC72 catamaran and did a sterling job. A second Australian Bryce Ruthenberg, a member of the OTUSA shore team was reported to Yachting Australia, but with a recommendation that no further action be taken because of his 'full frank and early admissions'.

Dutch sailor, Oracle Team USA's wingsail trimmer, Dirk de Ridder was not penalised further by their Appeals body (the Zeilraad), however because he was also reported by the America's Cup Jury to International Sailing Federation, de Ridder had a further Hearing conducted by the world body for the sport. De Ridder was also excluded from the whole of the 34th America's Cup, by the International Jury.

The ISAF Review Panel is believed to have subsequently made an adverse finding against de Ridder, which is subject to Appeal and no formal decision has been publicly issued. The report on the decision by the Zeilraad can be read by clicking here

Like Kyle Langford, Mitchell was also recommended for no further action by the America's Cup Jury, but he was suspended for four races of the series. He was on the water each day of racing.

In its decision the Hearings Committee recommended that no further action be taken against Mitchell and Walker. The Commissioners also expressed 'very significant reservations' about the International Jury findings as to the responsibility for carrying out work on the kingpost of two of the AC45's. The Commissioners claimed that the instruction to add the weight was added to the kingpost on the instruction of a senior member of the sailing team for one of the Oracle Team USA boats.

In Mitchell's case while he admitted knowing that the kingpost felt heavy when he picked it up, the Hearing Committee felt that was not in itself grounds to warrant further action by Yachting New Zealand

It will be up to the ISAF as to whether they conduct a further investigation into one or both cases. The world body has the ability to suspend a sailor from participation in yacht racing for life, if a serious offence, but two year penalties are common and have penalties have gone to five years.

The full report of the Hearings Committee is as follows:

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