Former sailing boss files complaint against AC jurors in Dirk de Ridder case

Bernie Wilson (AP Sports Writer)

Former sailing boss files complaint against AC jurors in Dirk de Ridder case

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The former head of sailing’s governing body has filed complaints of gross misconduct against the five members of an international jury that handed down the harshest penalties in America’s Cup history.

Paul Henderson of Toronto has requested hearings by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF). The action comes weeks after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) reduced sailor Dirk de Ridder’s suspension from sanctioned events from three years to 18 months. De Ridder was banned from the 34th America’s Cup in September 2013, and Oracle Team USA was docked two points in a scandal involving manipulation of the weight distribution of boats that Oracle sailed in warmup regattas.

Henderson filed individual complaints against jury members Bryan Willis of Great Britain and Graham McKenzie of New Zealand, based on depositions they gave during hearings before CAS, and a single complaint against the three other jury members, David Tillett of Australia, Josje Hofland of the Netherlands and John Doerr of Britain.

“All members of the AC 34 jury failed and violated the principles of ISAF by not providing an equitable and fair hearing to all sailors,” Henderson wrote in his complaint against Tillett, Hofland and Doerr.

ISAF competitions manager Jon Napier says executives will review Henderson’s complaints. They can refer them to a disciplinary commission for investigation and possible hearing, or, if they decide there’s no case to pursue, Henderson can appeal that decision.

Penalties could include suspension or termination.

Four days before the first race between Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand in the 34th America’s Cup, de Ridder, a key crewmember, was banned from the regatta, and the American-based crew was docked two points. Two shore crewmembers also were expelled, grinder Matt Mitchell was barred from the first four races and the syndicate was fined $250,000.

After falling behind 8-1, Oracle Team USA staged one of the greatest comebacks in sports and won the final eight races to retain the Auld Mug.

ISAF later suspended de Ridder from sanctioned events for five years, a penalty ultimately reduced to three years. De Ridder appealed to CAS, seeking to overturn the suspension.

In a majority decision announced last December, CAS, finding fault with both de Ridder and ISAF, reduced the suspension to 18 months, meaning the Dutch sailor will be able to compete in sanctioned events starting March 1. De Ridder has denied involvement in the scandal.

De Ridder was unable to accept a $500,000 contract to sail in the Volvo Ocean Race, which began last October.

CAS ruled that de Ridder “gave instructions, express or implied,” to add weight to a catamaran used in America’s Cup World Series regattas, but CAS decided that a three-year suspension “was disproportionate in light of the circumstances of the case and compared to previous sanctions imposed by the sailing federation in similar matters.”

Henderson said Willis stated in a deposition to CAS that jurors were an “independent tribunal working outside ISAF management” and therefore were operating outside the personal agreement they had all individually made with ISAF. That agreement states jurors can be suspended or terminated if they do not adhere to ISAF rules and regulations.

Henderson said McKenzie should have recused himself due to conflict of interest, either “real or perceived.” McKenzie is a member of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, which backed Emirates Team New Zealand and a delegate to ISAF from the New Zealand Yachting Association.

Henderson also contends the jury violated ISAF rules that forbid using hearsay evidence.

Henderson said in an email to The Associated Press Jan. 12 that protection for sailors “has eroded as the judges became professional and are very influential. If they do not adhere to the commitments made to honor ISAF Regs, then ISAF is in chaos and the sailors are racing under an undefined set of ISAF Regs.”

According to a document from August 2011, the America’s Cup was to pay the jury a total of 800,000 euros, or roughly $943,000, plus expenses, for services.

Henderson was ISAF president from 1994-2004 and a member of the International Olympic Committee from 2000-2004.

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