Oracle Racing and Ben Ainslie Racing are found to have been using illegal boats in America's Cup World Series
Oracle Racing have withdrawn from the last four America’s Cup World Series events and will be returning the trophies that the teams won following the discovery that the three boats that the team owned were illegally modified. The illegalities involve the final regatta in the 2011-12 series and all of the events in the 2012-13 series.
Ben Ainslie Racing, who were using a boat loaned and maintained by Oracle Racing, have withdrawn from the two America’s Cup World Series events that they competed in last year.
The issue came to light when the AC45 fleet was being prepared for the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup event when it was reported that one of the forward kingposts on one of the boats seemed to be unusually heavy. Inspection by the measurement committee discovered that it was filled with ‘a resin/ballast slurry of some type’. Further investigations revealed that the other two Oracle AC45s had also received similar modifications, in their case using bags of lead shot into the kingpost.
Regatta Director Iain Murray took the issue to the Jury alleging breaches of the AC45 class rule based on the report he had received from the measurement committee. Shortly afterwards Ben Ainslie Racing withdrew from the ACWS regattas. Oracle Racing’s withdrawal followed shortly afterwards.
Oracle Racing have issued a statement in which the team says that, ‘an internal investigation was led by CEO Russell Coutts, which determined that prior to racing in the regattas the yachts were modified without the permission of the Measurement Committee. The withdrawal is in spite of the fact that the modifications had no impact on the performance of the boats.’
The statement goes on to say;
‘The modifications were made over a year ago 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.’
“Our team is very disappointed by this turn of events, and I believe that voluntarily withdrawing from these past AC45 regattas is the appropriate corrective action,” Coutts said. “Going forward we remain focused on our AC72 training in preparation for the upcoming America’s Cup this September.”
It is believed that the Jury has started an investigation under Rule 69 of the Racing Rules of sailing (America’s Cup Edition) and Protocol Article 60 and that this investigation is continuing.
Rule 69 deals with gross misconduct capable of bringing the sport into disrepute. Protocol article 60 is aimed at protecting the reputation of the America’s Cup by prohibiting conduct that is prejudicial and detrimental to the America’s Cup and the sport of sailing.