The International Jury for the 34th America's Cup issued their decision regarding illegal modifications that Oracle Team USA made to their AC45 yachts during 2012/2013 AC45 regattas.
Three members of the US team have been excluded from competing in the America's Cup Finals after being found guilty adding extra weight to increase the performance of the AC45 yachts used in the World Series circuit races leading up to America's Cup. The International Jury found that only a few individuals were involved and that the senior management of Oracle Team USA, including skippers Jimmy Spithill and Ben Ainslie, CEO Russell Coutts, General Manager Grant Simmer and Shore Team Director Mark Turner, were not involved in the infraction.
However, vital team members such as wing trimmer Dirk de Ridder were implicated and will not be able to compete in the Finals, raced aboard the AC72s, beginning in a few short days on 7 September.
In addition to losing team members and being fined $250,000, Oracle Team USA has also been deducted two points in the America's Cup Finals, making their starting score -2. The decision to penalise a team before the race begins – which critics see as predetermining the outcome of the race – is a first for the Cup and rarely seen in professional sports worldwide. As Defender, Oracle Team USA must now win 11 races to keep the trophy, while Challenger Emirates Team New Zealand must still win nine races.
To say Oracle Team USA finds themselves in a challenging situation is an understatement, having to retool their team with only three days before the Finals begin.
'There’s no question in my mind that Team New Zealand are the favourites here. We’re in an underdog position now,' Oracle Team USA Skipper Jimmy Spithill says.
Spithill introduced his race crew yesterday afternoon in San Francisco after learning after learning of de Ridder's ineligibility and laid out his team's plan. 'We’re going to get our two boats out there . Now we know who we can sail with. We’ll probably sail one boat on Thursday and we’ll decide afterwards about whether we go out on Friday,' Spithill says. 'We have to go out and win races. We have to get out there and take one race at a time. That doesn’t really change.'
While the ruling might favour Emirates Team New Zealand's standing in the beginning scoring, Kiwi skipper Dean Barker shares a similar sentiment, 'The (Jury) decision changes nothing for us,' Barker says. 'I think it’s good the matter is out of the way and we can get on and go racing.'
This ruling, however fair or unfair it is viewed, will undoubtedly only add to the tense anticipation of upcoming America's Cup Finals, set to run 7 September up until 23 September (if necessary to determine the winner).
And adding another level excitement this year is the first-ever America's Cup Superyacht Regatta, hosted by Boat International Media in collaboration with the America's Cup, which will allow superyachts to be at the heart of the action and participate in their own regatta over the three America’s Cup Finals lay days – 9, 11 and 13 September 2013.
In addition to three days of racing, a superyacht social program organised by Boat International Media will ensure that owners and their guests are entertained to our usual first class standards with a Welcome Evening, Owners’ Dinner and the traditional End of Regatta Party.