America’s Cup sailor seeks investigation of ex-teammate
SAN DIEGO (AP) — New Zealander Matt Mitchell has asked sailing’s governing body to investigate former Oracle Team USA teammate Simeon Tienpont for gross misconduct, the latest fallout from one of the biggest scandals in America’s Cup history.
Mitchell’s complaint with the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) alleges that Tienpont broke a racing rule and lied during a hearing prior to the 2013 America’s Cup on San Francisco Bay.
Although Tienpont admitted altering a catamaran used in warmup regattas, he was allowed to sail in the America’s Cup match against Emirates Team New Zealand.
Mitchell, who was implicated by Tienpont during a hearing before an international jury, was suspended for the first four races. Another teammate, Dirk de Ridder, was banned from the regatta and Oracle was docked two points in the harshest penalties assessed in the cup’s 164-year history.
“It’s really just to get some justice out of the whole thing. The guy who actually did it, nothing happened to him,” Mitchell told The Associated Press on Friday. “Simeon lied during the hearing and that’s the only thing that implicated me and caused problems for me. I never should have had an issue. I didn’t do it. The only thing the jury had on me was Simeon’s lie.”
Mitchell said it’s up to ISAF to decide if there will be a hearing.
“This will put them in a difficult spot. They want the music to stop. They won’t be keen to do anything. That’s why we made the issue public. It’s a little more difficult to sweep under the carpet.”
Tienpont is now with Italy’s Luna Rossa. A team spokesman said Tienpont would not be available for comment.
Mitchell, a 43-year-old grinder who’s been on three cup-winning teams, was cleared by ISAF’s Disciplinary Commission on Jan. 8. He repairs boats in Auckland and hasn’t caught on with another team.
Both Oracle Team USA and ISAF have come under scrutiny.
Mitchell has sued Oracle Team USA for the $68,000 he spent on legal fees fighting the accusations against him. Oracle Team USA is owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison, who isn’t named in the suit.
Earlier this month, Paul Henderson, a former ISAF president and former member of the International Olympic Committee, filed complaints of gross misconduct against the five members of the international jury.
Henderson’s action came after the Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced de Ridder’s suspension from sanctioned events from three years to 18 months. In a majority decision, CAS found fault with both de Ridder and ISAF, and suggested the governing body make several changes to its disciplinary process.
De Ridder, whose suspension ends March 1, has denied involvement. He was unable to accept a $500,000 contract to sail in the Volvo Ocean Race. His original five-year suspension was reduced to three by ISAF before he appealed to CAS.
Tienpont, who like de Ridder is from the Netherlands, was a grinder who had the crucial role of operating the hydrofoils on Oracle’s 72-foot catamaran.
Tienpont was called as a witness but wasn’t charged.
After falling behind Team New Zealand 8-1, Oracle staged one of the biggest comebacks in sports by winning eight straight races to retain the Auld Mug.
“There’s no question that achieving the result we did would be a lot more difficult without Simeon on the boat,” Mitchell said. “Given that it was closely contested at the end, it was a very, very big deal.”
Mitchell cites a “secret memo” that details a meeting between Oracle Team USA general manager Grant Simmer and lawyer Lee Ann La France, and jurors Brian Willis and Graham McKenzie, on Aug. 21, 2013. The memo said La France, who conducted Oracle’s internal investigation, “believed Matt” other than why he didn’t question why the boat had been altered.
It said La France was surprised Tienpont wasn’t charged and “found Simeon less credible.”
The same memo said La France felt de Ridder “is a very level and credible witness.”
Two days after that meeting, Simmer was taken off the witness list.
The memo was not shared with the sailors during the hearings in August 2013, and wasn’t given to de Ridder and his attorneys until the CAS hearing last fall.
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