Yachting: Many unanswered questions remain over Oracle cheating

By Paul Lewis

So who is Sailor X? Photo / Getty Images
So who is Sailor X? Photo / Getty Images

Who was Sailor X?

Who is Andrew Walker?

Where did the spigots come from?

Those are the unanswered questions from the jury reports on the Oracle cheating saga.

Sailor X was the anonymous sailor who also appeared likely to be excluded from the event but whose case was dismissed by the jury.

Andrew Walker is the little-known New Zealander excluded from the America's Cup with Oracle wing trimmer Dirk de Ridder, sailor Matt Mitchell (banned for four races) and shore crew member Bryce Ruthenberg.

Another Oracle sailor, Kyle Langford, was also found to have breached the gross misconduct rules but did not attract a penalty from the jury.

The spigots were part of the illegal modifications made to Oracle AC45 yachts, alterations that were at the heart of the cheating allegations. The jury ruled that modifications such as those involving the king posts and spigots on the boats would result in enhanced performance.

Sailor X was named as being in impromptu meetings by shore crew rigger Ruthenberg; the meetings discussed the modifications to be made to the boats. However, the jury said it was satisfied that Sailor X was not at the meeting where the instruction was issued to Ruthenberg to adapt the king post. There was also no other evidence that Sailor X was aware the shore crew breached the rule.

The jury's terminology - Sailor X - suggests the sailor was, like de Ridder, a member of Oracle's sailing crew and possibly their America's Cup match crew. But his identity is now subject to a permanent confidentiality order.

Walker is a Wellingtonian. In his 30s, he is a boatbuilder who formerly worked for Hakes Marine - the Lower Hutt company which, according to one report last year, was set to go into liquidation. Hakes Marine China later came into being, based in Xiamen, with backing from Hudson Yacht & Marine.

Little is known about Walker in spite of his long tenure with Oracle Team USA. Most Cup sources spoken to yesterday said he was a comparatively junior member of the shore team managed overall by Oracle's Mark "Tugboat" Turner, also a Kiwi.

The jury's report said that when Turner left the site of the AC45 regatta in Newport, Rhode Island, in June last year "it was clear in his mind that Andrew Walker was in charge of the shore team at the regatta... Andrew denied this seniority in the hearing."

The jury also said Walker acquired the lead shot and placed it in a bag in the king post of one of the boats, along with Ruthenberg. He had compounded matters, the jury said, by not telling the truth during the hearing.

While Walker and Ruthenberg placed the lead shot in the king post, it was not known who extended the king posts or inserted 80mm spigots in them. The jury report said: "Top end fittings with 80mm spigots were found fitted to the main king posts of boats 4 and 5. All other boats that raced in the ACWS regattas were found to have fittings with 15mm spigots.. supplied by Core Builders Composites Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Oracle Racing Inc.

"No permission was sought of the measurement committee to change the spigots, as is required by the AC45 class rule. In spite of extensive investigations and a hearing, the jury was unable to discover who was involved and to what extent they were involved with the breach.

"Such a request from Oracle for a class rule change is even more necessary as there was a direct shareholding relationship between Core Builders Composites Limited (which supplied all the AC45 yachts) and Oracle Racing Inc."

Speaking of the changes to the kingposts, the jury added: "It also seems inconceivable that boat riggers initiated these changes without the knowledge of managers, or the direction of sailors, if not skippers."

Core Builders Composites is based in Warkworth. Its principals are Tim Smyth and Turner. Sole director is Stephen Barclay, chief executive of America's Cup Events Authority, which made a submission to the jury based on the effect of cheating on the Cup. His submission said the public response to Oracle' s conduct "has been negligible".

- NZ Herald

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