Yachting NZ clears Kiwis in Oracle boat scandal

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 08:51 11/04/2014

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The two Kiwis caught up in the Oracle cheating scandal on the eve of the America's Cup last year won't be penalised further by Yachting New Zealand (YNZ).

Two commissioners appointed by YNZ to look further into the cases against boatbuilder Andrew Walker and grinder Matthew Mitchell decided that no further action should be taken against them.

The America's Cup International Jury found both guilty of being involved in illegal alterations to Oracle's smaller AC45 catamarans that were raced in the 2012 and 2013 World Series.

Mitchell was banned for the first four races of the cup final against Team New Zealand and never featured in the comeback win.

Walker was banned for the entire final.

Both were subject to further investigation by their national association but YNZ has decided enough is enough.

In fact, in their 27-page report, commissioners Richard Brabant and Royden Hindle were critical of the way the hearings in San Francisco were handled, suggesting leading questions had been asked, and they expressed "very significant reservations" about the findings about the responsibility for the work that added weight to the kingposts of two of the AC45s.

They also questioned why other Oracle personnel, outside the named five, who were identified in the jury evidence, weren't also named and penalised.

But the key for the two New Zealand professional sailors is that they are clear to carry on in their sport.

They could still be subjected to a further investigation by yachting's world governing body, but that appears unlikely after the YNZ hearing and because other Oracle sailors caught up in the scandal have escaped further penalty.

Five Oracle squad members received varying bans and the team copped a US$250,000 (NZ$288,000) fine and the loss of two competition points.

These were all handed out on the eve of the America's Cup final against Team New Zealand.

Despite the handicaps, Oracle came from 1-8 down to beat Team New Zealand 9-8 and retain the Auld Mug.

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- Fairfax Media

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