If Oracle was hoping that giving up its wins in last year’s America’s Cup World Series would put the controversy surrounding the team’s illegally modified AC45s to rest, they must be seriously disappointed.
On August 9, following an internal investigation led by none other than team CEO Russell Coutts, the team withdrew “retrospectively” from the last four AC World Series regattas in an effort to make good. “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 afterward.
However, Emirates Team New Zealand chief Grant Dalton and Luna Rossa Skipper have both since gone on record as saying that Oracle not only cheated, but that they are skeptical that the modifications—which reportedly consisted of some additional lead in the boats’ bow struts—were made by a few rogue members of the team without the knowledge of the higher ups, as claimed by Coutts.
Dalton has also scoffed a Coutts’ claim that the modifications “had no impact on the performance of the boats,” noting in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle that “properly placed extra weight does improve the performance of the boat,” and that aboard and AC45 “you like weight forward.”
There has also been speculation that the additional weight, which was discovered when the boats were being prepared for the upcoming Red Bull Youth America’s Cup (set to take place Sept. 1-4) may have not been the only modifications that were made.
The violations are currently under investigation by a five-person international jury, and it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Oracle could be penalized by the loss of points in September’s America’s Cup regatta, or even be forced to forfeit the Cup entirely. For the complete jury notice regarding the violations, click here.
Two things are for sure: 1) this is the last thing an already deeply troubled America’s Cup cycle needs and 2) Grant Dalton, who is no big fan of countryman Russell Coutts, will be sure to hold Oracles feet to the fire, come what may.