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Italian skipper says Cup champ Oracle cheated

August 16, 2013

Skipper Max Sirena of Italy’s Luna Rossa is the latest America’s Cup competitor to accuse defending champion Oracle Team USA of cheating.

Oracle last week acknowledged its boats were modified without permission of the Measurement Committee for four America’s Cup World Series regattas last year, which were warm-ups to the 34th America’s Cup.

Asked on Thursday if Oracle had cheated, Sirena said: “For sure. I mean it’s pretty obvious what they’ve done, which is pretty bad for our sport. It was really — I don’t know if it’s the right word — unrespectful for all of us, for all of the competitors.”

Sirena’s strong words followed that of Grant Dalton, the managing director of another challenger in Emirates Team New Zealand, who said earlier in the week that he thought the American syndicate had cheated.

An international jury is investigating Oracle’s actions and can sanction the team with a fine, reduction in the number of sails it can use, forfeiture of races or even disqualification from the America’s Cup.

Asked if the rule breaches had made the Italians more motivated to beat Oracle if they made it to the America’s Cup match, Sirena said: “Yes. It will be great to beat them and to take the Cup back to the real world.”

Russell Coutts, the CEO of Oracle Team USA, fired back later Thursday.

“I don’t think it’s right that if a few people break a rule on a team of 130 people, that the whole team gets branded as cheats,” Coutts told The Associated Press. “I don’t think it’s right that other teams should use this as an orchestrated PR campaign to slander another team when there’s a jury process going on and the facts haven’t been established.”

Coutts, a New Zealander who is a four-time America’s Cup winner, said Oracle will be equally motivated, if not more so.

“You can’t imagine how motivated these guys are to win now that these people are using this as a megaphone,” Coutts said. “I don’t have to give a motivational speech. This team is incredibly motivated to win. This has picked it up 10, 20, 30 notches. They can thank Grant Dalton.”

Luna Rossa faces Emirates Team New Zealand in the best-of-13 Louis Vuitton Cup final starting Saturday. The winner advances to face Oracle in the 34th America’s Cup starting Sept. 7.

Luna Rossa is a decided underdog to the Kiwis, who were 5-0 against the Italians in the round-robins, including a race Luna Rossa boycotted over a rules spat.