Oracle insists it gained no competitive edge from the added weight. Yet some sailors wondered if other, more significant alterations could have been made removed afterward, leaving just the few telltale lead-filled bags that the measurement committee uncovered.
Ironically, Oracle last year pushed to add a rule about harming the sport’s reputation. Dubbed the “the Dalton rule,” some say it stemmed from the US team’s effort to muzzle Grant Dalton, New Zealand’s outspoken managing director, who has repeatedly criticized this year’s America’s Cup event.
The Dalton rule empowers the jury to punish Oracle by subtracting points before the best-of-17 races begin.
Ellison’s Oracle team, as defending champions, have the right to set the rules, specify boat design and choose the venue for this year’s competition.
The decision to use expensive, high-tech 22m catamarans, which can travel faster than 80kph, has been fiercely criticized for keeping many competitors away and making the races too dangerous. A British Olympian, Andrew “Bart” Simpson, was killed in a training accident in May.
Oracle referred questions to Tom Ehman of the Golden Gate Yacht Club, which is sponsoring Oracle and the America’s Cup event. Ehman said he was not allowed to discuss questions pending before the international jury.
Ehman has launched accusations of his own, alleging that New Zealand and Italy’s Luna Rossa had trespassed on the Oracle AC45s during a “reconnaissance mission.” He lodged a formal protest last week and then withdrew it, saying he needed more time to gather evidence.
“We have multiple witnesses who said members of Team Emirates and Luna Rossa were climbing all over our AC45s to find something,” he said. “Whether it’s a technical trespass under California law, I don’t know, but it’s bad sportsmanship.”
Some watching the sport say the recent events are in keeping with a history of gamesmanship in the modern America’s Cup, dating to a 1983 controversy when Australia imposed a blanket of secrecy over its innovative winged keel.