Defending champion Oracle Team USA will begin the America’s Cup two races down after crew members violated modification rules on its smaller yachts.
The best-of-17 series between Oracle and Emirates Team New Zealand begins with two races on Sept. 7 in San Francisco Bay. Oracle will have to win 11 races to retain the most prestigious trophy in sailing, while New Zealand needs nine victories.
Oracle’s primary wing trimmer and two shore crew were banned from the regatta and the team was fined $250,000 for the modifications on yachts used in the America’s Cup World Series in 2012. Oracle uses larger yachts in the America’s Cup, which was first contested 162 years ago.
“While we disagree with the unprecedented penalties imposed by the Jury, we have no choice but to make the necessary changes to personnel on our race boat and do our best to use the next four days for the new team to practice and get ready for the start of the 34th America’s Cup,” Oracle Team USA Chief Executive Officer Russell Coutts said on the champion’s website.
In August, Oracle voluntarily withdrew retroactively from the 2012-13 regattas in question.
None of the Oracle team’s senior management -- including skippers Jimmy Spithill and Ben Ainslie, Coutts, General Manager Grant Simmer and Shore Team Director Mark Turner -- was aware of the rules breach, investigators said.