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8 December 2002, 01:43 pm
Arbitration Panel Deliberates
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America's Cup

At the Arbitration Panel hearings into the 'OneWorld Case' in Auckland this weekend, the Seattle Yacht Club team attempted to defend allegations of breaches of the Protocol.
The allegations were brought by 'the applicants', Team Dennis Conner (NYYC) and Prada (YCPA).

The Arbitration Panel will deliberate into at least Monday, before the non-New Zealand members leave the country. A decision is hoped for before the Panel breaks up, although the deliberations could extend later into the week.

Former Team New Zealand design team member and current OneWorld designer Ian Mitchell was cross examined in front of the America's Cup Arbitration Panel (ACAP) on Sunday as the OneWorld case continued.

Mitchell has given three affidavits, two for the prior hearing (ACAP 01/08) and one for this hearing. The main information to come out from Mitchell's testimony was his admission of ownership of two instruments containing Team New Zealand design information - a zip-disc previously used to back up information, and an old 486-computer originally used in the 1995 campaign.

Under cross examination by Jim Farmer, QC, Mitchell said he first came across the zip-disc when he moved house in June 2000. Mitchell said he put the disc away and forgot about it until about a year later when the first submission were made from OneWorld to the ACAP. He then retrieved the disc and destroyed it.

Mitchell said the 486-computer he possessed was essentially obsolete, originally used in the 1995 campaign. Mitchell said Team New Zealand knew that he had the computer and didn't show much interest in either picking it up from him or having him purge it clean. Mitchell said the computer was used once in 2000, when he was still with Team New Zealand, to retrieve a document and that it had been in a garage ever since then.

Earlier, Laurie Davidson testified about his self-described lack of computer skills. Davidson said he doesn't have a filing system for computer files and only uses computers for line-plans, that are then transferred via paper into a CAD programme.

Davidson says that in April 2000 he wiped his Team New Zealand files from his computer and never referred to them in any form when he was with OneWorld.

As the lawyers for both sides summed up their cases, Farmer tried to establish a pattern of behaviour by OneWorld that led to numerous breaches of the Protocol. He said OneWorld recruited and used ex-Team New Zealanders to get a head-start on the new campaign.

"What is at issue is whether OneWorld Challenge used confidential TNZ design information to recreate certain elements of their boats, and used that as a springboard for the boats that we see out there on the water competing," Farmer said. "If they did, we see that as a breach of the Protocol."

"They are up and sprinting down the track in early 2000 while the others are struggling to catch up."

"The essential question is whether what has been produced at OneWorld had its origins in Team New Zealand."

In response, Iain Thain said the process of recreating Team New Zealand designs did not in itself constitute a breach of the Protocol. Design knowledge and freehand sketches were not breaches. To breach the Protocol would require, "Plans, specifications and other design information."

He went on to say there is nothing to stop a syndicate from trying to start at the end point of another syndicate.

Thain drew the scenario where under Farmer's interpretation OneWorld would be the only team unable to recreate the "Davidson bow" that Team New Zealand introduced in 2000, and which has been widely adopted by the rest of the fleet this year.

Thain said, if possession of the zip-disc and an obsolete computer did constitute a breach of the Protocol, then "the cost, disruption and pain to OneWorld is more than an adequate penalty."

OneWorld Challenge was previously penalised by the Arbitration Panel for admitted minor breaches of the Protocol before the start of the Louis Vuitton Cup. It maintains there are no new charges to warrant additional penalty in the latest allegations.

Louis Vuitton Media/ISAF News Editor
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