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America's Cup- Points, expulsions and fines in Jury Decision

by Richard Gladwell on 4 Sep 2013
Oracle Team USA has been hit moderately hard in the decision of the International Jury - America’s Cup 2013 Chuck Lantz © http://www.2007ac.com

Several members of Oracle Team USA have been excluded for various periods of time, substantial fines have been levied on the team and the team deducted two points in the forthcoming America's Cup Regatta.

Well, they aren't actually deducted two wins, Oracle Team USA, just don't get the points for their first two wins, in the Match.

The International Jury has exonerated Team principals, specifically Grant Simmer and Russell Coutts, and it was their actions once they became aware of the measurement issues that carried a mitigation factor, without which the penalties would have been more substantial.

Six sailors were identified by the International Jury and five of those have been named in the Decision. The sixth identified as Sailor X had his case dismissed after the Jury determined that he was not at a particular impromptu meeting where the discussion was held about adding weight to the kingpost of the AC45's.

A long six weeks
The Decision brings to a close what should have been a minor measurement incident that has escalated into the most serious form of disciplinary Hearing in the sport.

It relates to the finding on July 26, that a builder supplied part, a kingpost, of three AC45's managed by America's Cup Defenders Oracle Team USA, had been tampered with, by having additional weight added to them.

The kingposts, also known as dolphin strikers, are struts that are located under the wingsail and sprit, through which support rigging is run and tensioned to spread structural loads in the AC45's and indeed most multihulls. The AC45's have two kingposts.

The weight discrepancy was discovered by boatbuilders working for America's Cup Regatta Management (ACRM), not members of Oracle Team USA.

The amount of additional weight added was miniscule, and it is equally hard to understand why it would be located outside of the prescribed corrector weight area, however the point is that it was a breach of the Class Rules for the AC45 - which is a one design manufacturer supplied class.

A second report from the Measurement Committee highlighted the fact that the length and end fittings on some of the kingposts used in the Oracle Team USA 45's were of a different length and internal construction than the factory supplied kingposts. And further that while other kingposts had been removed and repaired by other teams they were all identical to the factory supplied items. While two of those from the Oracle boats had a measurable variance.

This issue should have been a relatively simple matter of the team identifying the people involved, the circumstances, and providing the Measurer with a full explanation - all within 24 hours. Had they done so, they could maybe have avoided the ignominy 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, together with the two Hearings.

Two members of Oracle Team USA were found to have not told the truth to the international Jury, and the Chairman of the Measurement Committee told the Jury in response to questions about the reliance on the level of trust by the Measurement Committee on competitors and finding that this trust had been vetrayed by members of Oracel Team USA, Nick Nicholson said ' I felt old, and used, and stupid'.

Five measurement breaches

All told, five incidents of measurement irregularities were identified by the Jury and these were all found to have been deliberate actions of tampering with a measured boat, putting it out of class.

The members of the Oracle Team USA sailing and shore crew named by the International jury are Bryce Ruthenberg (AUS), Andrew Walker (NZL), Kyle Langford (AUS), Matt Mitchell (NZL) and Dirk de Ridder (NED).

In the cases of the two Australians the Jury excluded ,b>Bryce Ruthenberg (AUS) a member of the OTUSA shore team is excluded for the remainder of the 34th America's Cup Regatta. He will be reported to his national authority under International Sailing Federation Racing Rule 69.1, but with a recommendation that no action be taken because of his 'full, frank and early admissions'.

Similarly with his countryman, Kyle Langford (AUS), a wing trimmer on board Oracle Team USA who for similar reasons together with his age and inexperience in the America's Cup environment was given a warning, which means he can continue to sail, if selected, and no report is to be made to Yachting Australia. However in an earlier section of its Decision the Jury noted that they were 'comfortably satisfied that his conduct was a gross breach of a rule and good sportsmanship.'

Two New Zealanders will be reported to their National Authority, Yachting New Zealand, which will establish a panel to receive the report, run its own investigation, and make recommendations on penalty and reporting to the national body and the International sailing federation who run a similar process and may then impose world-wide suspensions from the sport. While these normally cover exclusion from sailing events, it does not deprive the sailors of their ability to earn a living outside sail racing.

Matt Mitchell (NZL) a member of the OTUSA sailing crew, is excluded for four races of the 34th America's Cup, and will be reported to Yachting New Zealand, but with a recommendation that no further action be taken. No reason is given for the recommendation. However in an earlier section of its Decision the Jury noted that they were 'comfortably satisfied that his conduct was a gross breach of a rule and good sportsmanship.'

A second New Zealander, Andrew Walker a member of the OTUSA shore crew has been excluded from the 34th America's Cup and will be reported to Yachting New Zealand. No recommendation will be made in his case, and it can be expected that further sanctions may be applied to him after a YNZ Hearing. In an earlier section of its Decision the Jury noted that they were 'comfortably satisfied that his conduct was a gross breach of a rule and good sportsmanship, and this was compounded by not telling the truth during the hearing.'

Oracle Team USA's wingsail trimmer Dirk de Ridder (NED) is excluded from the 34th America's Cup, and will be reported to the Dutch National Authority. Again there is no recommendation for leniency from the Jury. In an earlier section of its Decision the Jury noted that they were 'comfortably satisfied that his conduct was a gross breach of a rule and good sportsmanship.' The Jury were also comfortably satisfied that de Ridder gave instruction to add weight to the forward kingpost,; and that he knew the weight had been added; that it was a breach of the AC45 Class Rule; and that 'he did not tell the truth to the hearing in this regard.'

Fine to Charity
Of the financial penalty levied on Oracle Team USA, half will be paid to the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation and the other half to a charity for at-risk youth in the San Francisco area.

The team will be penalized by one point for each of the two races of the Match in which they would otherwise score a point, meaning that they don’t start with a minus points score, but if they win races, they will not receive points for their first two wins.

The match for the 34th America's Cup starts on September 7, when the Defender Oracle Team USA meets the Challenger Emirates Team NZ, sailing in AC72 catamarans.

The full decision can be read by clicking here and by clicking here
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