America's Cup: Kiwis escape punishment in Oracle cheating scandal

Matthew Mitchell. Photo / Janna Dixon
Matthew Mitchell. Photo / Janna Dixon

The two Kiwis implicated in the Oracle Team USA cheating scandal during last year's America's Cup have escaped any further punishment by Yachting New Zealand.

After a lengthy investigation into the cases against grinder Matthew Mitchell and boatbuilder Andrew Walker, the national body yesterday ruled no further action should be taken against the pair. Yachting New Zealand's investigations have also led to serious questions over the international jury's handling of the entire affair.

An international jury appointed by ISAF were tasked with the initial investigation into illegal modifications made to Oracle's AC45 catamarans during the 2012 and 2013 World Series events. They came down hard on the Cup defenders, docking them two race wins, and handing down a $288,000 fine. Five individuals in the team also copped penalties, with Mitchell banned from taking part in the first four races - effectively costing him his place on the boat for the entire regatta, while Walker was banned from any further involvement with the team for the campaign.

As part of ISAF procedures, both cases were referred back to their national association, with YNZ finding the pair's involvement did not warrant further punishment, clearing the way for them to compete.

In their 27-page report released yesterday, YNZ complaints commissioners Richard Brabant and Royden Hindle highlighted several "procedural shortcomings" in the way the hearings were conducted in San Francisco.

In their final summing up, the commissioners also expressed "very significant reservations" about the international jury's findings over who was responsible for carrying out the illegal modifications to the two AC45s. They questioned why other Oracle personnel, who were identified in jury evidence previously subject to a confidentiality order, weren't also named and penalised.

- APNZ

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