Oracle Team USA was levied with heavy penalties in a jury decision that was released Tuesday in relation to misconduct during America's Cup World Series events last year.
Oracle will be penalized one point for each of the first two wins it scores in the America's Cup Finals — which are scheduled to start with two races Saturday on San Francisco Bay — essentially starting the best-of-17 series at minus 2 points. Oracle, owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison, will also pay a fine of $250,000 and will be without many members of their team for all or part of the upcoming series.
Team member Dirk de Ridder was accused last month of giving instructions to his shore crew to add weight to the team's 45-foot catamaran, or had been aware that the weight had been added, violating the AC45 Class Rule.
The extra weight, added to three AC45s last summer — including two Oracle boats and the one sailed by Ben Ainsle Racing — were reported to have happened multiple times over several ACWS regattas.
Oracle's representation stated that during an internal investigation into the matter, they had tried to find answers, but that a team member — who they said should know the answer — was not cooperative, and would be suspended.
De Ridder and shore crew members Andrew Walker and Bryce Ruthenberg have been barred from further participation in any role in the 34th America's Cup. Reports will be made to their respective national sailing authorities, and to the International Sailing Federation, which may dish out further penalties.
Grinder Matt Mitchell is barred from participating in the first four races of the America's Cup Finals, and trimmer-grinder Kyle Langford was saved from punishment, citing his age and inexperience, combined with his limited involvement.
A sixth team member, identified as "Sailor X" in the jury's report thanks to a confidentiality order, had his case dismissed and will face no penalties.
According to the jury's report, Russell Coutts, Oracle Team USA's chief executive officer, told the jury he was "shocked and disappointed," and that the violation was "a stupid thing to do," leading to a huge distraction for the team during a critical time.
The penalties are the steepest in the 162-year history of the event, the jury stated in its report that the penalties would have been greater if not for a desire to see the event decided on the water rather than in the jury room.
Coutts, however, was furious with the end result.
"It sets an unbelievable precedent ongoing," Coutts told the Associated Press. "You could think of lots of analogies. Think of Olympic athletes on a team breaking the rules and a whole team getting penalized. It's completely outrageous."
Half the money from the penalties will go to the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation, with the remaining $125,000 going to a charity selected by Mayor Ed Lee to provide support to at-risk youth in the Bay Area.