OneWorld, Oracle Do Battle On, Off Water
AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) _ Lawyers for Seattle’s OneWorld Challenge were studying leaked documents Saturday that could reveal breaches of America’s Cup rules by San Francisco’s Oracle.
Oracle might have obtained prohibited construction drawings and plans when it bought yachts belonging to the defunct San Francisco team AmericaOne after the 2000 Cup, according to documents delivered anonymously to The Associated Press on Friday.
The America’s Cup protocol allows current challengers to buy yachts used by 2000 challenge syndicates and to use those yachts for the establishment and development of later campaigns.
However, the teams are prohibited from acquiring plans, specifications or other design information, including performance data, on those yachts even though they own the boats. If Oracle obtained those documents, it could face sanctions.
OneWorld, which actively sought copies of the documents, challenged Oracle on Saturday to publicly admit wrongdoing, whether it was intentional or not. Oracle replied privately to OneWorld that it had no admissions to make.
The case is the latest in a series of rules disputes involving leaks of information and allegations of dirty tricks.
OneWorld, which has denied leaking the documents to the media, was considering whether it would place the matter before the Arbitration Panel, the Cup’s principal rules body.
Earlier this month, the panel penalized OneWorld for breaches relating to rivals’ designs. OneWorld was docked a point in remaining challenger series, and trails Oracle by three points after losing the first two races of the best-of-seven repechage.
Oracle beat OneWorld by less than a boat-length Saturday. The winner of the repechage series will face Switzerland’s Alinghi in the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger final in January.
The challenger champion will sail against Team New Zealand in the America’s Cup final in February.
Oracle spokeswoman Joanna Ingley said if the leaked documents revealed a protocol breach, the group or individual responsible for their release should approach the Arbitration Panel.
``We’re saddened that someone or a group of individuals has to resort to this kind of unethical behavior,″ she said. ``It’s pathetic and any continuation of the smear campaign will simply be a waste of energy.
``This is no more than a weak and feeble attempt to distract us from our task at hand. These are the desperate acts of desperate men.″
OneWorld executive director Bob Ratliffe said lawyers were assessing the documents to determine whether there was an issue to be brought before the panel.
``We have asked Oracle to let us know what the story is, to come clean if you like, which we believe is right thing to do,″ he said.
``We think that’s the proper way to handle it, to ask Oracle to come forward on their own behalf and explain what happened, whether they have these plans or not. It would be irresponsible if we didn’t find out more about what happened.″
Ingley said Oracle had responded privately to OneWorld.
``We were contacted by OneWorld this morning,″ she said. ``We’ve provided OneWorld with relevant documents that show clearly that we did not have the information alleged.″