Crazy expenses and contentious rules with Oracle Team USA

After the problems of last Christmas, Team Oracle Racing USA, the current holders of the America’s Cup are involved in some more legal wranglings. On 9th March two federal agents confiscated three containers located along the San Francisco coast that contained the pieces of one of theAC45 catamarans of team USA, that were meant to be sent to their new headquarters in Bermuda.

JOE SPOONERThe confiscation was caused by an accusation against Oracle team Usa from New Zealand sailor Joe Spooner, who was the the grinder for team Oracle for 10 years until last January when he was fired. He is accusing Oracle of terminating his contract (worth $25 000 a month) without just cause. The kiwi sailor, who had signed a contract with the American team from 1st July 2014 till June 2017, was fired following his outlandish request for an increase in his salary from $25 000 to $38 000 dollars a month, based on the increased costs faced with the transfer from San Francisco to Bermuda, the location of the 35th edition if the America’s Cup. Following a refusal from the team to increase the salary by that amount and a counterproposal of an increase of $4 000, no agreement was reached and the sailor was subsequently fired. The athlete then asked for $725 000 for the break of his contract, and the judge pending an outcome, to protect the rights of Spooner, agreed to the sequestration of the AC45 catamaran.

Matt MitchellThis isn’t the first time that the team has had this type of problem.  You may remember the case of Matt Mitchell, accused of having modified the AC 45 in the 2013 competition (34th AC World Series of S. Francisco 2013). In that case the international jury ISAF penalised the team 2 points, disqualified the sailor Dirk de Ridder (suspended for 5 years, later reduced to three by the ISAF jury and subsequently 18 months by the court of sport arbitration) and forbade the New Zealander Matt Mitchell from taking part in the first 4 races of the 34th AC, which concluded in the dramatic comeback of Oracle Racing going from 1-8 to 9-8 against Emirates Team New Zealand. In this case Matt Mitchell demanded team Usa reimburse him $68 000 that he used to defend himself from the accusations of the illegal modifications of the AC 45, and also accused the ISAF of treating him and De Ridder differently and not having tried to prosecute the other member of the team Simeon Tiepont (who is now part of the team Luna Rossa).

Larry ellison

Both these story bring to light the crazy expenditure of Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle and the patron of the team that continues to defend the America’s Cup. The cost of the last America’s Cup were rumoured to be around $200 million. For the 35th America’s Cup, that will have its opening ceremony at Cagliari from 4th to 7th June 2015 and finish with the races at Bermuda from 2017, there are expected equally head turning amounts: just think that the salary of a simple grinder for a team will set you back around $300 000 annually.