Amer­ica’s Cup hit by spy­ing claims and team sack­ings

Team New Zealand dis­miss ‘in­for­mants’ fol­low­ing leaks Ainslie’s GB chal­lenger team say they were un­aware of row

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - Sail­ing By Tom Cary

The 36th Amer­ica’s Cup has been rocked by a spy­ing row, with de­fend­ers Emi­rates Team New Zealand ax­ing an un­spec­i­fied num­ber of “in­for­mants”, ac­cus­ing them of leak­ing “con­fi­den­tial and sen­si­tive” in­for­ma­tion over a pe­riod of sev­eral months.

ETNZ also ad­mit­ted yes­ter­day that New Zealand’s min­istry of busi­ness in­no­va­tion and em­ploy­ment was in­ves­ti­gat­ing al­le­ga­tions made against them, al­though they de­scribed them as “base­less” and “highly defam­a­tory”.

In a state­ment, ETNZ said they and event or­gan­is­ers Amer­ica’s Cup Event Ltd first be­came sus­pi­cious six months ago that there were “in­for­mants” in their ranks. “Th­ese sus­pi­cions were con­firmed when we had con­fi­den­tial and sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion com­ing back to us from Europe very re­cently,” the state­ment read.

It is un­clear what se­crets are out, or to whom the al­leged in­for­mants were feeding in­for­ma­tion. Ben Ainslie’s Bri­tish chal­lenger Ineos Team UK said it was the first they had heard of the row when con­tacted yes­ter­day.

ETNZ’s state­ment sug­gested the in­tel­li­gence re­lated to “fi­nan­cial and struc­tural mat­ters”, with a num­ber of “highly defam­a­tory and in­ac­cu­rate” al­le­ga­tions made.

Grant Dal­ton, ETNZ’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, told stuff.co.nz that among the al­le­ga­tions was one made against him con­cern­ing the pay­ment to ship his race car to Aus­tralia. Dal­ton pro­duced an in­voice and a re­ceipt for the web­site, pre­sum­ably in an at­tempt to clear his name. “We’re flab­ber­gasted,” Dal­ton said. “[That this] has ex­isted in our own or­gan­i­sa­tion un­der our watch, we find un­be­liev­able. We still con­tinue to strug­gle to be­lieve it, but it’s hap­pened.”

ETNZ added: “The mo­tives of the in­for­mants who had ac­cess to the Emi­rates Team New Zealand base can only be guessed at, at this stage.

“Th­ese al­le­ga­tions are en­tirely in­cor­rect. Al­though th­ese al­le­ga­tions are base­less, the min­istry of busi­ness in­no­va­tion and em­ploy­ment have no choice but to in­ves­ti­gate, de­spite our be­lief that the mo­tives of the in­for­mants are ex­tremely sus­pect.

“We are work­ing with the min­istry to close out the re­main­ing is­sues with them quickly. We will not let this set us back in our Amer­ica’s Cup de­fence or host­ing of a great event this sum­mer.”

Spy­ing has long been part of the Amer­ica’s Cup, go­ing right back to its first edi­tion in 1851 when Bri­tish yacht own­ers spied on the schooner

Amer­ica while it was dry-docked. Amer­i­can bil­lion­aire Bill Koch, who won the Cup in 1992, once said: “There is noth­ing gen­tle­manly about the Amer­ica’s Cup and there is noth­ing fair about it. It is a dirty game. It is one of the nas­ti­est games I have ever seen.” Koch ad­mit­ted years later he had ar­ranged for he­li­copter flights to photograph ri­val com­pounds, hired for­mer Amer­i­can navy divers to go un­der ev­ery boat, and had peo­ple lis­ten in on the op­po­si­tion’s pri­vate ra­dio chan­nels and ri­fle through its garbage.

Dal­ton told Stuff that he had ETNZ’s wa­ter­front base “swept” elec­tron­i­cally twice af­ter be­com­ing sus­pi­cious. “We per­formed pen­e­tra­tion tests through our fire­walls to check peo­ple weren’t able to hack us – both of those proved neg­a­tive,” Dal­ton said. He added that the al­leged source of the leaks “clicked” about two weeks ago, when in­for­ma­tion came back to him from an­other party in Europe.

In a state­ment, the min­istry of busi­ness in­no­va­tion and em­ploy­ment ac­knowl­edged that it was look­ing into a num­ber of claims. “This in­cludes claims around struc­tural and fi­nan­cial mat­ters,” it said. “We are work­ing with Amer­ica’s Cup Events Ltd, and Emi­rates Team New Zealand in re­la­tion to the claims. As there are con­trac­tual agree­ments in place, we’re un­able to go into fur­ther de­tail at this time due to com­mer­cial sen­si­tiv­ity, but we will pro­vide a full up­date once more in­for­ma­tion is avail­able.”

De­spite a num­ber of warm-up events hav­ing been can­celled this year due to coro­n­avirus – in­clud­ing one which was meant to take place in Portsmouth this month – the Amer­ica’s Cup is still sched­uled to take place in Auck­land next spring.

In­trigue: Emi­rates Team New Zealand’s AC75 yacht pre­pares in the waters off Auck­land

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