SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal judge has ordered marshals to release America’s Cup champion Oracle Team USA’s souped-up catamaran, which was seized on March 9 after fired sailor Joe Spooner sued the syndicate.
Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero issued the order March 18, one day after telling attorneys for the two sides to meet during the next two weeks to discuss a settlement. Spero allowed the lawsuit to proceed.
Claiming wrongful termination, Spooner had the boat, which was in three shipping containers on Pier 80, seized in an attempt to satisfy a lien. He is seeking at least $725,000.
Spero concluded that Spooner’s contract was not sufficiently tied to a particular boat to support a maritime lien and the “arrest” of Oracle’s vessel.
Spooner, a grinder from New Zealand, was fired in January after he asked for a raise to help cover the cost of relocating to Bermuda, where Oracle Team USA, which is owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison, has chosen to defend the America’s Cup in 2017.
Marshals said this was the second time an America’s Cup vessel was “arrested” in San Francisco. In 2012, marshals seized a French team’s catamaran during a dispute over a salvage claim after the boat broke free from its mooring.