America's Cup: Jury gave NZ 'a grossly unfair advantage' - lawyer

By Paul Lewis

Dirk de Ridder.
Dirk de Ridder.

A lawyer seeking reinstatement of banned Oracle Team USA sailor Dirk de Ridder says the America's Cup international jury gave Team New Zealand "a grossly unfair advantage".

However, Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill told a media conference on Sunday that de Ridder's absence made no difference to the race results that day, both won by Team NZ.

Terry Anderlini, lawyer for de Ridder, is arguing that he and others banned from the cup did not get a fair hearing.

The jury acted as "investigator, cop, prosecution, witness, judge, jury and executioner", according to Anderlini's legal submission to have de Ridder reinstated.

De Ridder was excluded from the regatta by the jury, along with New Zealand boatbuilder Andy Walker, Australian rigger Bryce Ruthenberg and Oracle sailor Matt Mitchell.

In a letter to the jury, Anderlini asked that they withdraw their decisions, restore the injured parties to their pre-hearing status, and (if further action is deemed necessary) schedule "a proper hearing before a new, impartial jury after the Cup campaigns conclude".

In accusing the jury of wrongful process in their hearings, he said: "This series of errors by the jury reveals an utter lack of due process having been afforded to the parties and as a result some of OTUSA's key sailors have been excluded from (the cup).

"Some of these sailors now face further disciplinary action from ISAF [the international sailing federation which has the power to ban sailors from the sport altogether] and they threaten the careers and livelihoods of some of the world's best sailors.

"The jury's action[s] as to these sailors ... utterly demolish any perception of fairness, they undermine the integrity of the competition for the America's Cup, and they threaten to determine the outcome of the America's Cup challenge, despite the fact that the alleged misconduct had nothing to do with the America's Cup."

Anderlini submitted that the hearings were unfair because:

•There was no connection to the America's Cup in the boats that were involved yet the jury chose to "impose penalties clearly calculated to damage their team's defence of the America's Cup and to provide a grossly unfair advantage to the challenger".

•The rule under which the hearing was convened called for a competitor to be found to have "knowingly and intentionally" violated the rule - which he contended had not been established.

•The jury had conflicts of interest and two of the jurors should have listed themselves as witnesses and excused themselves for the hearing.

•The jury intentionally withheld "confidential" evidence from the parties and solicited and relied upon unreliable evidence "in the form of hearsay, speculation and supposition".

•There was inadequate time to prepare a defence.

•Transcripts of an earlier hearing were provided to Team NZ, the America's Cup Event Authority and the America's Cup Race Management and there was no assurance that confidential information from the transcripts, since destroyed, would be used.

Meanwhile Spithill, speaking after the first two races, said that de Ridder's absence had made no difference to the race results.

One of the parties Anderlini's letter was copied to was lawyer Ben Ballard, who told the Herald on Sunday last weekend that Walker, the Kiwi thrown out of the regatta for cheating, did not put lead in the boat. Ballard is preparing a joint legal submission with de Ridder.

- NZ Herald

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