America's Cup: Sailors and Crew Banned, Oracle Fined and Docked Races
|Worse things happen at sea...|
The scuttlebutt: A group of sailors and crew members conspired to illegally add weight to two racing boats; several had full knowledge what they were doing violated numerous rules; and others, in the jury's estimation, should have known.
Four sailors and crew members have been banned or suspended from further America's Cup proceedings. Oracle Team USA, meanwhile, has been fined $250,000 and will on Saturday begin its showdown with Emirates Team New Zealand two races in the hole in the best-of-17 series.
That fine will be split between the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation -- started in memory of the British Olympian killed in May when Team Artemis' boat disintegrated in routine conditions -- and a "charitable organisation selected by the Mayor of San Francisco to provide support to at-risk youth in the San Francisco Bay area."
The biggest name given the boot by the jury -- both in standing and in length -- was Dirk de Ridder.
The jury found that Oracle's "wing trimmer" was "in gross breach of a rule and good conduct" when he did the following:
The Jury is comfortably satisfied that:
Dirk gave the instruction or direction to add the weight to the forward king post;
Dirk knew the weight had been added;
Dirk knew it was a breach of the AC45 Class Rule;
Dirk did not tell the truth in the hearing in this regard.
The decision, released via a pair of labyrinthine rulings, the reading of which recalls poring through the appendices of a Tolkein novel, boils down like so:
Boat-builder Andrew Walker and shore team member Bryce Ruthenberg have been banned from the cup for knowingly adding lead weights to a portion of the boat called a "kingpost" during races last year, providing a competitive advantage. Ruthenberg "felt under pressure to do the job. The sailing team, and in particular the wing trimmer Dirk de Ridder, were held in very high regard and respect by the shore team and by Bryce."
Walker "acquired the necessary lead shot and assisted Bryce Ruthenberg with the
placement of approximately 1.8kg of lead weight in a Kevlar bag in the forward king post
of [Oracle] boat 4."
De Ridder was found to have ordered this. Finally, Matt Mitchell -- a team captain -- was found negligent: He "knew that the kingpost was heavy. It should have been apparent to a sailor of Matt's experience that when finding a kingpost that was nearly 2.5 times heavier than the norm, its legality was obviously questionable."
Mitchell is suspended for the first four America's Cup races.
The ruling is yet another blow to the prestige and credibility of Larry Ellison's Oracle Team, the troubled iteration of the America's Cup, and the city that deigned to host the event following grand promises of a windfall on water.
That sell-job, like the boats, turned out to be a tad heavy.