America's Cup: Oracle Drops Three of Four Races -- But "Banned" Sailor Is Allowed On Boat

Categories: America's Cup
Thar he goes...
By the tortured standards of the America's Cup, it really wasn't all that bad of a weekend. Sure, host Oracle Team USA dropped three of the four races -- but the weather was nice, no one got hurt, and the team wasn't nailed in yet another cheating scandal

That last one wasn't a given. Sharp-eyed sailing fans noticed Matt Mitchell aboard Oracle's yacht on Saturday, when the home side dropped the opening two races to Emirates Team New Zealand. And that was odd because, per the America's Cup International Jury, Mitchell is "excluded from sailing on a Yacht competing in the Match for the 34th America's Cup until 4 races have been completed" for his part in a scheme to illegally add weight to Oracle catamarans. 

As the image accompanying this story indicates, Mitchell was hardly disguised. So, what gives? Well, according to members of the International Jury and Team Oracle, this is all kosher. It's yet another bit of legalistic nuance in a sport drowning in legalistic nuance. 

Mitchell can clearly be seen in the above video at the 44:30 mark. Considering the healthy clip the boat is traveling, under its own power, it certainly seems that he's "sailing on a Yacht competing in the Match for the 34th America's Cup." 

But the distinction here comes in the word "competing." Mitchell hopped on the boat between races to do maintenance work. Parsing the term, he's not on a boat that's "competing."  

"Matty is not permitted to sail on the yacht while it is competing in the match (during racing) for the first four races. He was therefore not onboard during the racing," explained Oracle Racing CEO Sir Russell Coutts via e-mail. "He is not excluded from performing other duties for the team (for example helping to prepare the boat and sails)." 

Oracle did not run this interpretation of the ruling by the International Jury. So, fortunately for the home side, the jury buys it.

It's "OK to sail on the boat between races because that yacht is not 'competing in the Match for the 34th America's Cup' at that time," wrote Bryan Willis, one of the jury's five members.   

He adds that this "wasn't 'cleared' but it is permissible." 

So Team Oracle's got that going for them -- which is nice. And, with four races in the can, Mitchell's racing ban has lapsed. The team could use him: Factoring in the two-race penalty imposed following the cheating scandal, Oracle essentially trails the series, 5-1, with the first team to notch 11 wins emerging victorious.  

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Just a thought, if schmuck Ellison wins the cup when they toss him into the drink will they put an anchor around his neck?

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