By JOHN BRANCH of the NY Times, Published: September 3, 2013
SAN FRANCISCO — Oracle Team USA will begin defense of the America’s Cup on Saturday with a two-race deficit after being penalized for prohibited modifications to its racing yachts in 2012.
Oracle will begin the best-of-17 event with a score of minus 2. To capture the America’s Cup, Oracle will have to win 11 races. The challenger, Emirates Team New Zealand, will need to win nine.
A five-member jury of the International Sailing Federation also barred a veteran Oracle sailor, the wing trimmer Dirk de Ridder, and two shore team members from the race. Another team member was suspended for the first four races. The team was also fined $250,000.
The issue centered on Oracle’s AC45 catamarans, which were used in last year’s America’s Cup World Series but are not part of this year’s America’s Cup, which use the larger, 72-foot AC72s.
Infractions included adding a Kevlar bag of lead tailings to the forward king post and extending the main king post without the consent of the measurement committee, the jury said. Oracle officials said they considered the penalty too severe, in part because the violations involved different boats in a different race.
“The rules infractions involved only a few of our 130 team members, and were done without the knowledge of either our team’s management or the skippers who were driving the boats,” Russell Coutts, the chief executive of Oracle Team USA, said in a statement. “While we disagree with the unprecedented penalties imposed by the jury, we have no choice but to make the necessary changes to personnel on our race boat and do our best to use the next four days for the new team to practice and get ready for the start of the 34th America’s Cup.”
It was the latest in a string of mishaps and controversies to bedevil this year’s race on San Francisco Bay. In May, a member of a team from Sweden died when a boat capsized during practice.