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America's Cup World Series- Oracle Team USA to be investigated by Jury

by Richard Gladwell on 9 Aug 2013
Oracle Team USA America’s Cup World Series San Francisco 2012 october - Race Day 4. ACEA - Photo Gilles Martin-Raget © http://photo.americascup.com/

The International Jury for the 34th America's Cup has launched an inquiry under Rule 69 of the Racing Rules, following a report from the Regatta Director that Oracle Team USA's AC45's and one Ben Ainslie Racing, appeared to have deliberately have breached the class measurement rules in the America's Cup World Series.

Both teams have voluntarily withdrawn from four of the America's Cup World Series regattas, and were ordered by the International Jury to return all trophies. All series have been re-scored.

Despite the withdrawal, the International Jury and Measurement Committee have taken the matter seriously and launched an investigation under Rule 69 of the International Sailing Federation Racing Rules, which relates to Allegations of Gross Misconduct.

A report issued by the International Jury stated 'The MC’s Report concluded with the phrase ‘The modifications appear to be intentional efforts to circumvent the limitations of the AC45 class rule, and are therefore serious in nature.'

Generally speaking, deliberate breaches of class rules are regarded very seriously, as they are very difficult to detect, and sailing is a sport which relies on the integrity of sailors not to take advantage of a situation, no matter how small or insignificant.

Oracle Team USA have issued statement, which did not mention the Jury investigation, or the fact that the matter had even gone to the International Jury:

Oracle Team USA's AC45 yachts have withdrawn, retrospectively, from the last four AC World Series regattas.

This follows an internal investigation led by CEO Russell Coutts, which determined that prior to racing in the regattas the yachts were modified without the permission of the Measurement Committee. The withdrawal is in spite of the fact that the modifications had no impact on the performance of the boats.

The AC45s are a class of 45-foot training yachts used in previous world circuit regattas and have not raced since Naples in April 2013. They are distinct from the AC72 yachts (72-footers) being raced in this year’s Louis Vuitton Cup and America’s Cup.

The modifications were made over a year ago by a small number of team members involved in the AC45 circuit, without the knowledge of management or the skippers, and without having followed standard internal procedures.

'Our team is very disappointed by this turn of events, and I believe that voluntarily withdrawing from these past AC45 regattas is the appropriate corrective action,' Coutts said. 'Going forward we remain focused on our AC72 training in preparation for the upcoming America’s Cup this September.'


However the International Jury have taken a darker view of the matter stating: 'Upon receipt of the Report from OTUSA, and the MC reporting that ‘The modifications appear to be intentional efforts to circumvent the limitations of the AC45 class rule, and are therefore serious in nature’, the Jury has commenced an investigation under Racing Rules of Sailing (America’s Cup Edition) Rule 69, and Protocol Article 60. This investigation is ongoing.'

The report against Oracle Team USA was lodged by the Measurement Committee (MC) on August 5, 2013, and a Confidentiality Order was immediately applied for by the Regatta Director (RD) and Oracle Team USA (OTUSA). That Order was removed on August 7, 2013.

Commenting on his AC45 being one of the boats withdrawn, Sir Ben Ainslie emailed the International Jury stating: 'BAR was loaned the AC45 for competition by OTUSA and the boat was prepared/maintained by OTUSA. As skipper of the boat I had no knowledge whatsoever that the boat was being raced out of measurement. I am deeply disappointed by this incident and will do all I can to assist the relevant parties in any further investigations.'

It is not clear how the addition of an additional 2.5kg of weight to the kingpost on the AC45's was discovered. But it is most likely to have been during scrutineering and boat equalisation ahead of the Red Bull Youth America's Cup.

An AC45 has two kingposts, one under the wingsail and one forward of that to brace the bowsprit. Both are parts manufactured by the builder are required to have identification stickers attached by the builder, at the time of manufacture. A measurer on seeing such a sticker on that part, would be entitled to presume that the part was as originally supplied and had not been altered in anyway.

In an email to the Regatta Director, team rules advisor, Richard Slater said: 'The team has recently discovered that both yachts did not comply with the AC45 Class Rule. The team prepared and lodged a report on this matter to the America’s Cup Jury on August 4, 2013.'

The circumstances of the matter will be investigated by the International Jury, who commented: 'The RD has advised the Jury that ‘as the racing aspects of the protest have been resolved by the retirement of OTUSA and BAR from the relevant ACWS regattas and as the Jury has commenced an investigation under the Racing Rules of Sailing (America’s Cup Edition) Rule 69, and Protocol Article 60, the RD has withdrawn the protest’. .

Penalties for deliberately altering a measurement condition of a boat are treated very seriously, often resulting in substantial bans from the sport on both those directly involved and those not directly involved, but who had knowledge of the situations and did nothing.

The most serious cases have involved offshore racers who have altered measurement certificates, used tankage as water ballast, and other ways of circumventing measurement rules to gain very small advantages.

It is not believed that the addition of the weight to the kingpost would have had any effect on boatspeed, or affected the outcome of the racing, and quite why it was added is not clear.

'A' Team sailors are not believed to be involved, however they will need to show the Jury that they had no knowledge of the additional weight. As many as 40 crew could be interviewed by the International Jury - hugely disruptive to the team as it builds in its final month ahead of the 34th America's Cup.

Rule 69 investigations are almost with precedent in the America's Cup, with the closest being the transfer of design data between teams ahead of the 2003 America's Cup. However that was undertaken under the provisions of the Protocol governing the event and not the International Sailing Federation racing rules, which prescribe for complete bans from the sport, which the Protocol cannot do in itself.

The full report from the International Jury can be read by http://noticeboard.americascup.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/JN096.pdf!clicking_here

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