Scandal threatens US team's defence
27 August 2013, 14:37
San Francisco - After years of preparation and countless controversies, software mogul Larry Ellison's Oracle Team USA is poised to defend the America's Cup against Emirates Team New Zealand beginning 7 September.
But first it must beat back a cheating scandal that threatens to blacken the reputation of Oracle and several of the biggest names in yacht racing, and could make it harder for the American team to hang on to the 162-year-old trophy.
An international jury of five sailing experts has been trying to determine exactly how three Oracle catamarans competing in preliminary regattas known as the America's Cup World Series came to be altered with heavier fittings and illegal lead and resin hidden in their frames.
The jury will hold a hearing on Thursday in San Francisco, and is expected to shortly thereafter rule on whether individual Oracle team members have engaged in "gross misconduct", and whether the team as a whole has brought disrepute to the event.
Oracle could be docked points in the Cup regatta, which it can ill-afford in the face of what looks to be a stout challenge from New Zealand, which on Sunday clinched the challenger slot by beating Italy's team in the Louis Vuitton Cup.
Individual Oracle sailors and shore crew members - though not the team itself - could be disqualified from the event.
"There has been cheating going on. I won't use any other word because it is obviously cheating," said Bob Fisher, 78-year-old yachtsman and author of a history of the America's Cup. "It looks really bad."