Cheating scandal will hurt Oracle boss Ellison
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America's Cup holder Larry Ellison will be "absolutely pissed off" with the shame the cheating scandal has heaped on his Oracle team on the eve of their defence.
That's the view of Glenn Ashby, the Australian who helped Ellison finally win the Auld Mug in 2010 but switched camps to help mastermind Team New Zealand's challenge.
Ellison's problem-plagued regatta stooped to its lowest level yesterday, enveloped by arguably the biggest scandal in the history of sport's oldest contest as the international jury returned guilty verdicts on charges of gross misconduct and bringing the event into disrepute by illegally doctoring two of their boats with extra weight and altering the length of crucial gear.
Four Oracle team members were banned, the syndicate were docked two points for their looming clash with the Kiwis and also fined US$250,000.
No-one on the Team New Zealand side of the fence knows billionaire Ellison better than Ashby, the multihull specialist who coached the Oracle sailors on how to handle the massive trimaran they used to hijack the cup from Alinghi in 2010.
And while his bosses, Grant Dalton and Dean Barker, were happy to play a straight bat at the stunning turn of events that have swung momentum their way, Ashby was not shy to offer some straight talk.
"Larry will be absolutely pissed off. There's no doubt about that at all, because it does reflect on him and his team," Ashby said, adding that pressure would also mount on Ellison's campaign chief executive, Kiwi and cup legend Russell Coutts.
While Coutts was cleared of any involvement, he is also left with the stigma of cheating stamped on his team.
"Russell has obviously been walking a pretty thin line with it all at the moment as well," Ashby said. Ashby's role on Aotearoa is to trim the massive wingsail.
It is his Oracle opposite, Dutchman Dirk de Ridder, who got hit with the biggest ban from Oracle's sailing crew, thrown out of the regatta and facing further penalties from his national association and the International Sailing Federation.
"I know Dirk personally and I worked with a lot of the guys over there in the last America's Cup with the coaching and sailing," Ashby said. "He's a big loss for those guys.
"I'm just shocked at the moment, it's hard to know what to say. I had no idea what was going on over there. It's not easy for anybody, it's disappointing. It's a strange one to be honest, I don't really know why [it happened], it's just a real shame."
Ashby warned that a wounded Oracle should not be dismissed.
"Without a doubt it's been a massive distraction. [But] when race one comes around they'll be out there all guns blazing."
That is what Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill promised.
"I'm expecting the fight of my life, not just myself but the guys I'm sailing with. They will be hungry for it," Spithill said, making it clear he felt Team New Zealand were now favourites because of this turn of events.
"Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think we've ever seen so much controversy and distraction for a team going into the America's Cup."
Spithill maintained that Oracle did not agree with the jury's verdict but conceded they had to accept it.
- © Fairfax NZ News