Oracle Team USA, the prized group of boating enthusiasts funded by bajillionaire Larry Ellison, has been accused of cheating in last year's America's Cup World Series races and ordered to return their prized hardware.
Three of the team's AC45 boats were found with additional weight in the forward king posts — a minuscule change, but a violation of race regulations nonetheless — during recent inspections of the boats. The AC45s, which are smaller than the AC72s in the current races, were used during preliminary regattas in San Francisco, Rhode Island and Europe last year. The mischievous modifications were discovered when the boats were inspected again before hitting the water for the upcoming Red Bull Youth America's Cup in September.
The Oracle Team has retroactively withdrawn from four events in which they won three and finished second in the fourth. The team claims that the changes did not influence their winning performances last year and that someone on the team must have made the modifications without telling the skipper. Oracle Team CEO Russell Coutts told the jury via email that he "had no knowledge whatsoever that the boat was being raced out of measurement. I am deeply disappointed by this incident and will do all I can to assist the relevant parties in any future investigations.” According to the rules, the international jury is allowed to bar a person or boat from future races if they have been caught cheating.
The New Zealand team, currently favored to beat out the Italian team Luna Rossa to take on Oracle's AC72 in the America's Cup final, reacted with shock saying, "I find it difficult to believe that what we learned actually happened at the top level of our sport.”