America's Cup Jurors Accused of Gross Misconduct

Jurors who banned Oracle Team USA member under fire

Jan 13, 2015
Outside Magazine
ORACLE TEAM USA Golden Gate Yacht Club America's Cup San Francisco San Francisco Bay GGYC the defender AC72 wing-sailed catamaran 26.2 meters America's Cup 72 class sail boat hydrofoil

The five-person international jury handed down the harshest penalties in America's Cup history to members of Oracle Team USA.    Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr

The former head of sailing’s governing body has formally accused five America’s Cup jurors of gross misconduct after they imposed a harsh penalty on a member of Oracle Team USA in 2013.

The jurors issued a three-year ban on Oracle Team USA member Dirk de Ridder, a key wing trimmer, and docked the team two points after a scandal involving weight manipulation of boats in warm-up regattas. Paul Henderson, president of the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) from 1999 to 2004, has requested a hearing at the ISAF to investigate the decision.

“All members of the [34th America’s Cup] jury failed and violated the principles of ISAF by not providing an equitable and fair hearing to all sailors,” Henderson wrote in his complaint, according to

The jurors are part of a tribunal independent of the ISAF, which Henderson accuses of operating outside the rules and regulations. Some jurors should have recused themselves, Henderson said, and some evidence was hearsay.

The accused jurors are Bryan Willis of Great Britain, Graham McKenzie of New Zealand, Dave Tillett of Australia, Josje Hofland of the Netherlands, and John Doerr of Britain. They could face suspension or dismissal.

The accusations come at the heels of an ISAF decision to reduce de Ridder’s suspension from three years to 18 months, which would allow him to participate in sanctioned events starting in March. The court decided that a three-year ban “was disproportionate in light of the circumstances of the case.” De Ridder’s punishment prevented him from accepting a $500,000 contract to sail in the Volvo Ocean Race, which began in October, reported the San Francisco Examiner.

De Ridder’s removal from the team denied it a key member four days before the first race against Emirates Team New Zealand in the 34th America’s Cup in 2013. Oracle Team USA eventually came back from an early deficit to win the final eight races and the cup.

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