"It is still possible that they (Oracle Team USA) will survive the jury hearings and the evidence gathered against them, but most observers are predicting that team members (will be) banned from the regatta and at least two points docked from Oracle’s defense of the Cup.” This according to a Monday article in the New Zealand Herald. As it stands now, the Cup is a ‘best of 17 race’ series, slated to begin September 7.
According to the Herald’s Paul Lewis, things are looking worse than ever for the Oracle team. The original committee allegation was that there had been an “installation of illegal materials,” including bags of lead weight, to Oracle’s AC45s with the intent of adding “weight, length and stiffness to a part of the boat that helps bear the load of the masts and sails.” This could easily be construed as cheating, of course, but perhaps ‘innocent cheating’ done unbeknownst to higher ups by a goofball member of the shore team.
But now things are looking worse. According to Lewis, "the discovery of the new modifications" indicates that the changes to the kingposts were far more complex than just stowing a bag of lead. The sophisticated modifications are said to have been "designed, built and installed." If this was the case, it is hard to believe the modifications were the work of one goofball/renegade member of the shore team acting on his own, but rather ran much deeper into the Oracle team.
The jury has already interviewed 16 members of Oracle Team USA and five members of America’s Cup Race Management in advance of two hearings. The first hearing, to be held Friday, will investigate gross misconduct by an individual or individuals. This hearing will determine who, if anyone, gets banned from the Cup. The second hearing is to determine what, if any, penalties should be applied to the Oracle team for bringing the Cup into disrepute.
"There are strong rumors afloat," writes Lewis, "that two members of the Oracle sailing crew are involved, including one front-line member."
We got a little grief from a few readers last week for suggesting even the remote possibility of the Italian-backed Luna Rossa Challenge staging a comeback in the just-completed Louis Vuitton Cup Finals. As one reader observed, "something drastic" would have to happen to Emirates Team New Zealand’s boat for the Italians to have a chance: i.e "a UFO to flying through the wing (of ETNZ’s boat)."
Needless to say, that didn’t happen. So, although helmsman Chris Draper, tactician Francesco Bruni, and the rest of Luna Rossa squad gave it their best, the Kiwis sealed their bid Sunday to face Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup Finals, beginning September 7.
Although the Italians made steady improvements in speed and crew work, most observers in-the-know wrote them off them long ago, as their one-boat campaign relied on the design package of the Kiwis’ first boat, which was purchased from ETNZ due to budget constraints. It was clear months ago that the second-generation Kiwi boat was faster and more stable while planing, so the deck was essentially stacked against the Italians.
As we look ahead to the main act, however, Oracle Team USA is expected to be a much more difficult opponent for the Kiwis. With the biggest AC 34 budget by far, OTUSA’s boat speed and crew work are expected to give the Kiwis a hard-fought battle. September 7’s race should define the series, because if one boat is obviously faster overall, victory for that team will be a foregone conclusion. See the official website for details.
American and Australian officials seized a customized 85-ft Bristol ketch in Port Vila on Vanuatu last Monday, coming away with 1,650 lbs of cocaine worth $330 million. Agents had to chisel the stuff out of the bilge, where it was encased in concrete.
According to news reports, the DEA had been tracking Raj for some time before coordinating the raid. They believe the boat was en route to Queensland, Australia, where cocaine is in high demand. No arrests have been made.