On-board video showing light-hearted banter of "scrotum rash" by a Volvo Ocean Race entry attracted a formal complaint that appears to have led to one member of the crew leaving the team, despite the complaint being dismissed.
Yesterday, the International Jury of World Sailing dismissed a charge of misconduct under Rule 69 of the Racing Rules of Sailing against Australian skipper David Witt and British navigator Steve Hayles of the aptly-named Scallywag.
The complainant, not associated with the race according to the jury, took offence at the video produced on board the Hong Kong-backed entry during Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race from Lisbon to Cape Town.
In its decision, the International Jury wrote: "David Witt and Steve Hayles did not commit misconduct because the video has not caused widespread offence worldwide and has not brought the sport into disrepute."
However, Hayles stepped down as navigator and left the team before the jury made its finding.
Richard Brisius, the President of the Volvo Ocean Race, said: "As race organisers we would like to thank the International Jury for its time and thoughtful handling of this case."
The video begins with a content warning and then proceeded to discuss the issue of scrotum rash. Yesterday, the team announced that Hayles had stepped down as navigator for team.
"I've seen the video and I think it's unfortunate that this resulted in a hearing," said Dee Caffari, the skipper of Turn the Tide on Plastic.
"This case has shown all of us, I think, that the banter and jokes that are an essential part of life on board, don't always travel well off the water. But to have singled out these guys for a charge when it's clear that nobody on their boat felt offended in any way seems misguided to me."
Jordi Neves, Chief Digital Officer of the Volvo Ocean Race added: "As event organisers we are constantly undertaking a review of our and the teams content workflow. We are providing updated guidelines to our communications team, including the on board reporters.
"Our focus now is to evolve and respond in a responsible manner, as we continue our authentic storytelling of the race as the sailors take on the ultimate test of a team in professional sport."
Rule 69 says that "a competitor, boat owner or support person shall not commit an act of misconduct''.
Misconduct is defined as "conduct that is a breach of good manners, a breach of good sportsmanship, or unethical behaviour: or conduct that may bring the sport into disrepute''.
In the video, which purports to be a "breakfast show'' Witt begins by saying: "Adult warning: everything in this segment will offend most sections of the public domain.''
He later introduces the only female crew member on board, Dutch Olympic silver medallist Annemieke Bes as "Doctor Clogs'' and says they have a question for her from a viewer.
Hayles then says: "The question is: Our skipper David has a rash on his scrotum and they would like to know how these two are meant to apply the Sudocrem (an ointment)''.
Bes, who is wearing a fake beard, is rendered speechless and Witt chimes in saying that the doctor is "mute'' and "just does hand signals''.
"So it's in the Sudocrem and rubbing the Sudocrem like this,'' he says while he pretends to remove cream from a jar and rub it into Hayles' genital area.
The video was posted to the team's website and automatically reposted to the Volvo Ocean Race website where it remained for several days before the race organisers removed it after complaints from the public.
The video is now available at the scuttlebutt.com website.
The incident was then referred to the race's protest committee.
A sailing website, www.sailingillustrated.com, broke the news of the hearing on Tuesday and posted a copy of the video to its Facebook page. However, the video was removed later that day. The original video was the subject of social media discussion within the sailing community for weeks.
Witt had attained a level of notoriety before the race even began when he declared, "There is no room for women on my boat", in response to race rules that rewarded teams that included women with extra crew places.
"I've made my decision — we're going with seven guys,'' he said. "It's hard enough to win the race, the last thing we need is to be part of a social experiment."
The seven teams next take to the water today at 2pm local time in Cape Town for the In-Port Race, before the start of Leg 3, from Cape Town to Melbourne, Australia on Sunday.