Special to Nordstjernan
San Francisco, 03Sep2013

In the evening of September 3, after all racing was completed, the America’s Cup Jury published its decision in the case of Oracle’s alleged cheating, after nearly five weeks of investigations. It barred a key sailor and several others from participating in the regatta; docked the team two points in competing against New Zealand; and fined the team $250,000.
During the measurements of last year’s AC45s to be used in this year’s RBYAC races, it was discovered that the kingpins in three of Oracle’s AC45 boats were overweight, and that they had been intentionally tampered with, in these otherwise standardized boats used by all teams. The jury found that these modifications could have affected the racing results in four America’s Cup World Series races. The OTUSA team claimed ignorance and minimal effect or misinterpretation of the rules, began its own investigation, and relinquished all of the prizes it had won in the 2012-2013 ACWS competitions.
New Zealand lodged the official protest; Dalton, their skipper, and Bob Fisher—sailor, journalist and author of a history of the Cup racing—both declared this to be cheating for which they requested harsh penalties against the team. In what is being called the most draconian penalties in the 162-year history of the competition, the jury assessed the following penalties against the team and some of its crew:


1. Loss of Points: This 34th America’s Cup already had the most rigorous competition, requiring the final two boats in the defense to compete in the best of seventeen contests. Now two points will be deducted from OTUSA’s score in the first two races. Effectively this means that New Zealand must win nine races before USA wins eleven, to win the Cup. Ironically, Oracle instituted this rule — the Dalton Rule (named for NZL’s skipper) — to penalize New Zealand, if they continued complaining about the AC72s.

2. Penalized Personnel: Despite OTUSA’s arguments to the contrary, the jury decided that the team did not sufficiently educate nor enforce all of its team members to know what was right and what was wrong, according to the rules of the competition. Three team members have been excluded from participating in the regatta. One has been released with a warning. And the jury dismissed the charges against another. However, it also stated that all senior members of the team (e.g., CEO Coutts, Helmsmen Spithill and Ainslie, General Manager Grant Simmer and Shore Team Director Mark Turner) were not involved; they were innocent and ignorant of these modifications.
The jury stated that it disbelieved Oracle’s key wingman, Dirk de Rigger’s testimony. He is a tremendously experienced America’s Cup sailor in a key position. He was barred entirely from competing further in the regatta. Two shore crew members were also expelled from this regatta and Grinder Matt Mitchell was barred from the first four races. Kyle Langford, a young, inexperienced wing trimmer, was given a warning but allowed to continue for not having understood the implications of the weighting. He now must take the role of deRigger on Oracle’s boat.

3. Fines: The team was fined $250,000, which must be paid before it can participate in the Defense of the Cup. The jury decided that $125,000 must be contributed to the Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson memorial fund to train poor but deserving young sailors. Another $125,000 must be donated to San Francisco’s underprivileged youth educational fund.

Oracle’s Reaction
After these penalties were announced, Oracle published a statement on its website stating that it would of course comply but that it considered these penalties to be unjust and establishing a bad precedent to punish the whole team for the covert actions of a few. Spithill declared the OTUSA team now to be the underdog in this competition with but four days to prepare for a totally different race. He announced his new team, which would race New Zealand. And he stated that his team is justly angry at the decision but will focus this energy on defending their possession of the Cup on the water.
The Defence races begin on September 7th and conclude at the latest on September 21st. This “gift to the Kiwis,” as some have called it, makes the competition even more fierce. Both teams will have to put that much more into their efforts. And any slip could be extremely dangerous.

Ted Olsson
San Francisco