Byline: Associated Press/Bernie Wilson
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — America’s Cup champion Oracle Team USA has forfeited its championships from the first two seasons of the America’s Cup World Series — a lead-up to the main event — after it was determined that its yachts were modified without the permission of the Measurement Committee.
Syndicate CEO Russell Coutts, a four-time America’s Cup winner, called the violations — adding about 5 pounds of extra ballast to each boat — a “ridiculous” mistake that didn’t affect the boats’ performance, but warranted punishment.
“This is a serious issue for us,” Coutts said in a conference call. “It may have had little effect on the performance, but it’s breaking the rules — and the international jury may be obligated to conduct an investigation as to how it happened, and establish whether people intentionally broke the rule.”
Coutts thought it unlikely there would be any penalty beyond the forfeit.
While seemingly insignificant in the big picture, as the America’s Cup World Series was a lower-profile warm-up event, the violations are another smudge on an already troubled regatta.
At the very least, it’s an embarrassing mistake by the powerhouse syndicate, which is owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison.
Oracle turned itself in after discovering the violations while preparing the same 45-foot catamarans for teams that will sail in the inaugural Red Bull Youth America’s Cup in September.
Coutts said the illegal modifications were made “by a small number of team members involved in the AC45 circuit, without the knowledge of management or the skippers, and without having followed standard internal procedures.”
“The fact is, we didn’t comply with the rules,” Coutts said. “It doesn’t matter whether it helps you or not. If it doesn’t comply with the rules, your boat is out of measurement and you have to withdraw.”
Oracle Team USA will begin defense of the America’s Cup — sailing’s oldest trophy — on Sept. 7, with the competitors using 72-foot catamarans rather than the 45-footers used in the America’s Cup World Series.