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Grand Prix Sailor–America’s Cup Edition

Prada, Team Dennis Conner File Against OneWorld

November 25, 2002
© Kaoru Soehata/louis Vuitton

Grand Prix Sailor is a 13-year-old racing news publication of Sailing World Magazine (www.sailingworld.com). This AMERICA’S CUP EDITION is a weekly summary of Cup action, brought to you this week by Gill and C & C Yachts.

Springtime in Auckland
Too little wind Saturday, too much on Sunday, and close to none at all Monday has delayed flight 1 of the quarterfinal repechage races, the bouts between OneWorld and Team Dennis Conner, and Prada versus Victory Challenge. Tuesday, on the schedule as a day off, will instead be a day of (attempted) racing.

In the meantime, Prada and Team Dennis Conner dropped a bombshell on the OneWorld syndicate. Here’s the report from our man on the ground in New Zealand,
–Bob Fisher.

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MUCK RAKING IN THE AMERICA’S CUP
The New York Yacht Club, represented by Team Dennis Conner, and the Yacht Club of Punta Ala, represented by Prada have lodged complaints to the Arbitration Panel of the America’s Cup alleging breaches of the Protocol governing the event by the Seattle-based OneWorld Challenge.

The move follows the collection of evidence by these two clubs during the past months that OneWorld was acting beyond the remit of the rules when it designed and built the two boats that it is using for the Louis Vuitton Cup.

Earlier, OneWorld had admitted minor infractions of the Protocol, but the new evidence alleges to point to far greater transgression of the rules than the “mea culpa” admission, and might even result in the syndicate headed by communications billionaire, Craig McCaw, and Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen, being disqualified from the competition. As yet, no date has been fixed for the Arbitration Panel to meet.

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Much of the success of the protest could hang on the testimony of the former Operations Manager of OneWorld, Sean Reeves, who OneWorld has successfully sued for breaking a confidentiality agreement. Reeves has filed sworn affidavits with a solicitor in the High Court of New Zealand in which he alleges that there have been 22 serious violations of the Protocol for the 31st America’s Cup.

In the 50 pages of affidavits, Reeves, who parted company with the OneWorld team at the end of May 2001, alleges that recruitment of personnel, which was part of his duty, was aimed at obtaining information of other syndicates, so that OneWorld would have a handy start in its design and development program, including the lines plans of the successful New Zealand defender, NZL-60, and her sistership, NZL-57.

Reeves had previously been Rules Advisor to Team New Zealand until March 2000, and was thus aware of the systems in place with that team. He alleges that, contrary to the Protocol, Laurie Davidson, the principal designer for TNZ, who joined OneWorld with Reeves, delivered a design package on August 15th 2000 containing eight complete lines plans for America’s Cup class yachts, receiving US$1.5 million for his efforts, and that one of them, known as “#3 standard” was the Team New Zealand yacht, NZL-57.

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Reeves recalls in his affidavit that he saw a member of OneWorld’s design staff working with the drawing open on his desk and that this document had a copyright stamp from TNZ on the bottom margin. He states that other TNZ copyright documents were in OneWorld’s possession and that from the outset Davidson said that he intended to include the lines of NZL-60, which he had drawn for TNZ, in his design package. He claims that when OneWorld confessed to the Arbitration Panel of some minor breaches of the Protocol, for which it was penalized one win in the rounds robin of the competition, it was sparing with the truth. He states, “Many of OWC’s statements¿ are false and designed to mislead and deceive the panel as to the true facts and circumstances.”

Reeves also lists information on sails, brought from the Prada campaign by sail designer, Michael Spanhake as being outside the rules. Included in this information were details of Prada’s sail batten technology. “Prada,” he states, “was one of the few syndicates to carry very large mainsail roaches ¿One of the reasons they could succeed in this area where others failed was due to the “flat batten” program.”

The complete technology of the “Millennium Rig”, the mast that TNZ used to great effect in the last Cup, was also made available to OneWorld illegally. TNZ had spent three years developing this rig, while OneWorld had one in a boat in three months – only the information it had obtained had made this possible; right down to the mechanical fittings it was an exact copy.

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Reeves states quite clearly that the philosophy of OneWorld was to grab what it could from any source. “…acquisition or appropriation of other syndicates’ design and technical information was not discouraged by many OWC designers and sailors but openly and freely encouraged.” It extended even to weather program information. Nothing, it seemed, was too trivial.

Reeves, however, may find that the confidentiality agreement he signed with OneWorld, and for which he has already accrued a debt of US$1.6 millions, might be still binding.—Bob Fisher

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STATEMENT FROM THE NEW YORK YC
“The New York Yacht Club, the longest-standing trustee of the America’s Cup, and Yacht Club Punta Ala, the present Challenger of Record, have today filed a joint application with the America’s Cup Arbitration Panel regarding Seattle Yacht Club (OneWorld Challenge).

“The application follows recent access to evidence in connection with the possession and use by OneWorld of other syndicates’ design information.

“In the interests of the event, the applicants believe that there must be a full and timely investigation. NYYC and YCPA are now waiting for directions from the Panel. No further comment will be made whilst the application is pending.”

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ONEWORLD RESPONSE TO THE NEW YORK YC AND YC PUNTA ALA’S SUBMISSION TO THE AMERICA’S CUP ARBITRATION PANEL.

“It is disappointing to see the perpetuation of these kinds of tactics by a few individuals which do nothing other than put this great event at risk of being completely derailed after the racing has already started. The issues raised by the New York Yacht Club and Yacht Club Punta Ala are not new and have already been dealt with by the panel. Raising them will serve no purpose beyond galvanizing the Seattle team to fight and win on the water where yacht racing belongs.

“OneWorld took the high road and did the right thing by admitting 18 months ago to inadvertent indiscretions when they were discovered. We went through months of investigation and had a harsh but just penalty weighed against us. We paid our penalty and now we will rise above all of this while others choose to wallow in it.

“We have the highest level of respect for the sailors on both of these teams and we are confident that like us, they prefer to settle issues on the race course. We look forward to the chance to meet them on the water and may the best team prevail.

“There is a reason that books have been written about the history of unsportsmanlike conduct in the America’s Cup. The same characters and organizations continue to re-appear in the acts of skullduggery and underhandedness. This America’s Cup deserves better if it is to endure as the oldest and greatest sporting prize.”

Sailing World and Cruising World magazines announced the winners of their annual Boat of the Year competitions last Thursday evening in St. Petersburg, Fla. For the results, see http://www.sailingworld.com/sw_article.php?articleID=1507

Grand Prix Sailor and Grand Prix Sailor–America’s Cup Edition are weekly newsletters compiled by the editors of Sailing World magazine. If you’d like to subscribe, see http://www.sailingworld.com Contributing Editors: Tony Bessinger ([email protected]), Dave Reed ([email protected]), Stuart Streuli ([email protected]), John Burnham ([email protected])

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