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AC Jury’s Decision Delayed

A five-member international sailing jury is continuing to hear testimony today regarding allegations of cheating by Oracle Team USA staff during the America’s Cup World Series. Their decision regarding punishment, if any, is expected to come early next week.

The five-judge jury looked happy and carefree when they posed for this photo, but the thorny task before them could have very serious implications on the Cup’s reputation. Pictured, are David Tillett (Chairman), John Doerr, Josje Hofland, Graham McKenzie, Bryan Willis.

© 2013 ACEA / Gilles Martin-Raget

Without going into specific details, OTUSA has already publicly acknowledged wrongdoing and relinquished their ACWS victories. The question before the jury, however, is how much the America’s Cup 34 defender should be penalized. At issue is the alleged breaking of AC Protocol Article 60, which addresses protecting the reputation of the Cup, and Racing Rule 69, having to do with gross misconduct.

Penalties imposed on the team could range from a slap on the wrist (i.e. banning some members of the shore staff from further involvement in the Cup), to dinging OTUSA by a couple of points in the AC Finals, to forfeiture of the title. We can not imagine the latter happening, as there is just too much at stake financially for all concerned, and handing down a harsh penalty would likely do more harm to the AC’s fragile reputation than the alleged cheating itself.

Although the jurors are undoubtedly beyond reproach, they are under tremendous pressure not to elevate this mini-scandal to a higher level. In fact, they have asked America’s Cup Event Authority CEO Stephen Barclay to submit a financial assessment of the economic impact on the Cup and its backers, if cheating is proven. He should know — a former Oracle exec, he is now head of Core Builders Composites in New Zealand, which produced all of the AC45s and at least one of the wing masts. (CBC is an Oracle subsidiary.)

Since the very beginning, controversy has always been a part of the America’s Cup, and this incarnation of the 162-year-old contest is certainly no exception. We’re sure most readers agree with us when we say that we are extremely anxious to get beyond the off-the-course controversies, and on to the main event: cutting-edge, boat-on-boat racing. Unlike the just-completed Louis Vuitton Cup races, we anticipate that the AC Finals will be closely contested — and thrilling to watch. Race one is slated to begin September 7.

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On the odd chance you don’t have much going on this weekend, here are a few events you might want to check out over the next few days: The artists have once again decended on Marin County for the 61st annual Sausalito Art Festival.