back to article Oracle Team USA sailors admit breaking America's Cup rules

Larry Ellison’s beloved yacht-racing team has confessed to some naughty nautical fiddling and has voluntarily scuttled its results from recent run-up races to the America's Cup. The chief of Ellison’s Oracle Team USA has revealed illegal modifications had been made to the team’s 45-foot AC45 catamarans by "a small number of …


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  1. Tom 13

    Any word on exactly what the illegal modifications were?

    And for the tech angle, why they give the team an unfair advantage?

    I mean, I'm all for smirking over Larry getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar, but I'd like a better cover story.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: Any word on exactly what the illegal modifications were?

      I'm very curious too. Cheating in the Cup races is a tradition for all the teams and for the crew to own up to it probably means it was either terribly obvious or they found out a competing teams big boats were doing something similar and they don't want them to have that advantage for the real prestige regattas. I'm betting on the latter.

      1. My Alter Ego

        Re: Any word on exactly what the illegal modifications were?

        From what I've read, it was an extra 4.5lb of ballast on their AC45s - something that Coutts said would cause a minuscule difference in trim (and apparently would reduce performance*)

        To be fair, the new cup format is ridiculous - moving from the IACC 20m rule was supposed to reduce costs, but they've had to hand a whole load of money back (3M USD) to Loius Vuitton as they didn't have enough competitors as challengers are struggling to run their AC45 and a pair of AC72s.

        * On the boat I race on, we're supposed to race with the cushions in their normal place, which the boss doesn't like doing as they can get wet during spinnaker drops and sail changes. Instead we keep them in the aft cabin which is against the rules, but actually reduces our performance as it'd be better to keep them forward for a trim point of view.

        1. Tom 13

          Re: and apparently would reduce performance*

          illegal AND adverse?

          Okay, off to the stocks with him.

          And thanks for the info.

    2. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: Any word on exactly what the illegal modifications were?

      At least Oracle have lots of experience with Boat Anchors....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Any word on exactly what the illegal modifications were?

        they'd superglued the boat to the top of a submarine....

        1. Khaptain Silver badge

          Re: Any word on exactly what the illegal modifications were?

          It seems a little bit incredible that none of the management were aware of anything.. I can't imagine for a moment that making changes to these boats is a trivial affair that can easilly be hidden.. Unless of course they have some miracle drugs that would make even Lance Armstrong jealous.....

        2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

          Re: Any word on exactly what the illegal modifications were?

          "they'd superglued the boat to the top of a submarine...."

          I suppose torpedoing the leader gave that away.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Any word on exactly what the illegal modifications were?

      > Any word on exactly what the illegal modifications were?

      Illegal ballasting.

      The odd thing is that the extra weight was about 2kg (basically nothing on an AC45) and it was in a stupid place.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeah, little technical things

    like not having sails, for example. The America's cup is a joke and their claim that the original yacht, America, "unseated Great Britain as the world’s undisputed maritime power."* by winning a boat race in 1851 (some 55 years before HMS Dreadnought was launched) reflects the childishly simple-minded attitude it has to rich men waving their willies about in public.

    Official website's history page.

    1. My Alter Ego

      Re: Yeah, little technical things

      "like not having sails, for example" - not sure I agree with that, I see wing sails as just another advancement in the technology - I've always described sails as zero-thickness wings. They just given them some thickness now. Unless you're racing a one-design class, it'll always be a case of people throwing money at the design to get the most out of the rule. That's one of the reasons that the AC45s were more interesting to watch.

      Oh, and as much as I love sailing, it's got to be one of the most boring sports on earth to watch, even if you understand exactly what's going on. Most of the people I sail with completely agree.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Yeah, little technical things

        Wings are most definitely not sails. They may be an advancement in technology but they are not sails. Using them is not sailing.

        Have to agree on the most boring sport to watch. I bet its great to take part in but just get on with it.

        1. dssf

          Re: Yeah, little technical things...lllolll...

          Anyone using them may not be sailing, but they WOULD be "winging" it, hahaha....

          And, to not be busted by officials/observers, they'd have to be flying on a wing and a prayer...

        2. My Alter Ego

          Re: Yeah, little technical things

          There's a hell of a lot more to sailing than pulling some ropes to adjust sails (Ok, the mainsail I trim has 8 different controls for setting the shape of, 11 if I include where it can be controlled from either tack). However, we only have 3 sail trimmers out of 8 crew.

      2. Gary Bickford

        Re: Yeah, little technical things

        I watched the AC45s in Newport RI last year. You could sit/stand on the side of the water, or you could go back away from the edge where they had some BIG screens set up. What you saw was quite different - the screens had cool perspectives from the helicopters (noisy!), and had the graphics showing what was going on, so you could see the tactical part of the race. Also they showed live video from the boats themselves, so you could see the amazing activity - from a distance sailboats seem like they are just serenely floating along, but on deck it's a blur of activity quite a lot of the time - especially with these very fast boats. From the shore you couldn't see the relative positions as well, but you could see the physical motion of the boats. For part of the race the boats got within perhaps 100 yards of the shore - cats have little draft so they're not constrained as much by shallow water.

        We actually went back and forth between TV and shore. I would like to do it again with a FondleSlab to watch the video and earbuds to listen to the commentary.

      3. Lars Silver badge

        Re: Yeah, little technical things

        "one of the most boring sports on earth to watch" I agree. but I must admit they made it quite enjoyable to watch sailing on TV during the London Olympics, and that was certainly the first time.

    2. asdf Silver badge

      Re: Yeah, little technical things

      Don't make this about the hundreds of million people in America that bust their ass every day to pay their bills. This is not about countries but a bunch of douche bag %1ers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yeah, little technical things

        The US has a workforce of about 160 million, so to get 'hundreds of million' you must have an awful lot of people that beat up their donkey as you put it instead of working....

        1. asdf Silver badge

          Re: Yeah, little technical things

          My point is there is a lot more people in the US worried about the mortgage than worried about the trust fund baby masturbatory fest that is the "Americas" cup.

          1. real_alias

            Re: Yeah, little technical things

            Now, now - Let the children play. The AC is no more masturbatory than *ball, tennis, golf or cricket. America as in, the first yacht to win. Not the country.

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. StephenTompsett

    Details of rules breach

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I understand

    L.A. tax payers should not be paying for Ellison's boating adventures.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: I understand

      And indeed, the taxpayers of LA don't pay anything for an event taking place out of San Francisco, 400 miles and several counties away.

      I think it is kind of funny when people bitch about how cities have to spend on events that don't interest them but are all for things like Comic-Con, CES or SXSW which are notoriously expensive and require millions in cleanup and city repair when they leave. At least the regatta crowd aren't prone to running around naked, throwing bottles into the street or shitting in the hallways or on the hood of police cars; all of which happen at the nerd and tech shows every single year.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I understand

        I would guess that's simply because of a lot more public interest in the event?

        Probably the large influx of people also benefit a wide range of hotels and small local businesses.

        I'm guessing a large boat race run by millionaires and billionaires isn't exactly going to be spending tons of money at lots of different small and local places?

        And surely Comic-Con etc. pay for their location and such? So it's just like a typical sporting event, except for several days?

        Now one could easily argue that the same is true for the boating, but then you still end up with some feeling that if you're a billionaire and you just decide to place your boat race somewhere, then surely you can carry some or all of the costs?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I understand

          According to the NYT article the problems arise around the infrastructure that require constructing:

          "Mr. Ellison’s Event Authority last year also backed out of an original plan to spend more than $100 million to build boathouses and repair piers that the city and a succession of private businesses had failed to develop in the past two decades. In return, the Event Authority would have gained long-term rent credits and development rights to the refurbished waterfront. Instead, the city itself is now paying for about $22 million in waterfront upgrades."

          Relate that back to Comic-Con. It would like the organisers demanding that the city build a new convention centre (or whatever) because they have to have a giant place for their convention.

          In fact it would be like the organisers saying we'll help build that new place, if we get to rent it cheap, and then later just going "Naah j/k. You pay for it"

          Clean up after events are what cities should expect when granting licenses to hold such events. And on that note - the city of SF should've bargained a better deal, or should've had some way to back out, if the circumstances changed too much - such as say 4 teams participating instead of the predicted 15.

          1. Gary Bickford

            Re: I understand

            There often seems to be this tension between sports and civil entities. For example the owner of the Miami Dolphins is resubmitting a plan for the State of Florida or the City or something to spend a few hundred $million to further improve Dolphins stadium - and the Dolphins are a loser team. But for cities, sports events can (though don't always) make a lot of money from the tourists that come to town. So it's a bit of a speculative bet on the part of cities.

            Having said that, I find it rather hard for a city to justify spending public money on 'bread and circuses'. For reference, read "Plutarch's Lives" on the life of Pericles, who spent public money building the Acropolis and providing free bread and public entertainment in a bid to stay elected. What we can learn from the Ancient Greeks: "Things haven't changed."

            1. Tom 13

              Re: tension between sports and civil entities.

              Yes sports teams and cities have these issues. In fact I think there was a study done and no major city has actually boosted its economy enough to pay for any of the stadium deals they've cut. But sports teams are owned by the same sorts as the boating events - people who can afford to buy and sell politicians and profit from it. I doubt ComicCon can, and think CES would be marginal on that front.

      2. Tom 13

        Re: Comic-Con, CES or SXSW

        Knowing how much it costs a non-profit to put on one of those shows; knowing that at least two of those three are profit making conventions which get serious reamings from the politicians and the unions, and knowing how much our little con brought into the city in terms of tourism and other money flows, I have not problems with those events. Payback in our case was still on the order of the city getting $10 dollars for every dollar we spent.

        Now start talking crap like the occupy movement and you have a point. But you shouldn't confuse the them.

  5. Jess--


    If i had the money to finance a winning team in that race I would make certain that it would be the last team to ever win, Simplest way I can think of is to make use of the rule that the winner specifies the location for the next race, anyone up for a yacht race in nevada?

    1. Don Jefe

      Lake Tahoe is already home to several annual regattas.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Nevada doesn't cut it. You need to insist on the race being held on Titan.

      That should get the costs up a bit, to a level that should satisfy even the most spendthrift billionaire...

    3. Francis Vaughan

      Won't work. The deed of gift gives the challengers quite enough leeway to drag you through the courts (of New York) and make you run the event in the sea. Indeed the New York courts are the effective custodian of the cup and final arbiter on how it is run.

      This little debacle is going to be interesting.

  6. ecofeco Silver badge

    Racing without improvements and experimentations

    Is pointless and why I no longer have any interest in the "pro" class of any sport these days.

  7. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    "one of Oracle Team USA's monster AC72 catamarans in training for this year’s cup capsized, with both boat and crew in need of rescuing."

    I think that if you check your facts you will find that Andrew Simpson died.( Skunk mods to an already monster machine?

    1. Francis Vaughan

      No, Oracle capsized with no loss of crew, but essentially total loss of the boat. It was Artemis that broke a beam and broke up, trapping Andrew Simpson underneath.

  8. Adair

    Some details.

    FWIW it seems that Oracle were caught out: it was the Measuring Committee that discovered the discrepancy, and only after several days of behind the scenes work did Oracle finally have to come clean in public having already asked for the whole matter to be kept quiet.

    A small amount of lead (2.3kg) had been inserted in a short downward pointing spar attached to the outer section of the bowsprit (hence it's name 'dolphin striker'). It is a support strut for the cabling that stiffens the bowsprit against the upward pull of the forestay cable running from the end of the bowsprit to near the top of the wingsail.

    2.3kg isn't a lot, but with the amount of leverage it exerts that far from the boat's centre of gravity it isn't insignificant. In fact it's purpose as a 'cheat' is irrelevant. The AC45s are built to a 'strict one design' rule so any tamperng with the setup that is not strictly permitted is strictly illegal and therefore subject to major penalties.

    This story, in true America's Cup fashion, will run and run.

  9. Francis Vaughan


    Just to be clear - the modified boats are AC45 class - and the contest they sail in is NOT the Americas Cup. They do however have a very close relationship with the cup, and were designed, and the series they sail in pushed, by Oracle as a support act for the main game. What is at stake is both the reputation of Oracle Racing, and a much more critical and currently open threat.

    Offences under rules 60 of the AC and 69 of the rules of sailing are under consideration. A rule 69 offence is not trivial. It would be heard by the ISAF, and could in principle, involve a ban of the offending people. In the worst case Oracle racing could be handed a multi-year ban on racing. (I don't think anyone realistically expects this, but the possibility is open.) That would implicitly cause them to lose the cup. So, whereas the lead weights are on an AC45, the consequences could cascade to the main game.

    The usual questions are open - who knew and when. Prior to the race series the weights were found in, the boats were sailed by the key Oracle sailors. If they received a ban it would cripple the Oracle team.

  10. asdf Silver badge


    Based on Oracle's recent sales numbers and growing customer revolt about licence fees increases perhaps this is not the only worry Team Oracle has.

  11. Richard Plinston Silver badge

    can hit 30 knots

    Actually, TeamNZ has hit 47 knots.

    (54mph or 87kph)

  12. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Poor Oracle

    First MariaDB and now this.

  13. Someone Else Silver badge

    Fsck these fat-asses

    Give them all Flying Dutchman racing dinghies and let's find out who can sail!

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    As punishment, each member of Team Oracle is required to buy annual maintenance!

    Icon shows Oracle sales rep shortly after fleecing IT customer on support contract! :)

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