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7 December 2002, 12:01 pm
Reeves Testifies
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Arbitration Panel Hearing - Day One

Former OneWorld Challenge operations manager Sean Reeves stuck by his allegations against the Seattle-based syndicate through four hours of sometimes heated testimony.

Reeves is at the centre of a case brought by Prada (Yacht Club Punta Ala) and Team Dennis Conner (New York Yacht Club) against OneWorld Challenge alleging multiple breaches of the America's Cup Protocol.

Testifying under oath, Reeves took the stand for four hours, as counsel for OneWorld cross examined him and attacked his credibility.

US attorney Hal Baetz outlined that three senior members of separate America's Cup syndicates had all sworn affidavits that Reeves had attempted to sell them design information belonging to OneWorld. Reeves emphatically denied the allegations, leading Baetz to enquire: "Are you calling these people liars?"

Reeves: "Some of these people are my personal friends, but to answer your question, they are liars, Mr Baetz."

In another exchange, Baetz said Reeves' account of events was contrary to affidavits presented by a number of people on behalf of OneWorld Challenge, including founder Craig McCaw, designers Laurie Davidson, Phil Kaiko, Scott Vogel and Ian Mitchell.

Reeves: "I don't care if there are 1000 affidavits. I stand by my testimony."

The hearing, in front of the five-man America's Cup Arbitration Panel, took place at the ivy-covered Northern Club in Auckland. The hearing opened with the Panel chairman, Australian judge Michael Foster, noting the enormous amount of written material that had been presented.

In the course of a normal court case, a matter of this complexity and volume would take 10 days to resolve, he noted. In this instance, however, the panel had just two days set aside for the hearing.

Observers from Cup syndicates were able to attend and among others, Dennis Conner and Ross Blackman, CEO of Team New Zealand, were present for the testimony. Through a three-man pool of media representatives, limited reporting of the hearing has been permitted.

The proceedings opened with Mr Jim Farmer QC making a 45-minute presentation of the Prada / Team Dennis Conner case against OneWorld, much of which related to affidavits Reeves had made earlier, alleging the Seattle-based syndicate had breached the protocol by being in possession of and using design information from rival syndicates.

Reeves was a rules advisor to Team New Zealand in 1995 and 2000 and became operations manager of OneWorld, having helped recruit people to the team. In his cross examination, Baetz asked why, if Reeves had uncovered breaches of the protocol, he had not brought it to the attention of founder Craig McCaw or any of the other senior personnel.

Reeves: "It is not the smartest thing to do in an America's Cup campaign to go around leaving a paper trail of this kind of violation." In another exchange on this point, Reeves said he was conducting an internal investigation about the extent of OneWorld's problems in relation to the protocol. "I wasn't going to put a notice on the board saying if anybody had nicked anything (from other syndicates) could they come and see me," he said. "I was carrying out a quiet audit."

Also appearing for OneWorld was New Zealand lawyer Iain Thain, who said Reeves had progressively changed his story over time. He pointed out that designer Robert Perry, who had been commissioned by Reeves' own legal team as an expert witness, had concluded that the OneWorld designs were different from the Team New Zealand designs. America's Cup Technical Director Ken McAlpine subsequently confirmed that.

The panel also heard from OneWorld mast designer Scott Vogel, the author of a widely-circulated email which suggested the Seattle team should consider the wisdom under the protocol of copying Team New Zealand mast fittings. Speaking in a quiet voice and frequently called on to repeat his testimony, Vogel said his email constituted a warning that Protocol breaches were possible.

The hearing continues tomorrow from 9am to 5pm. It is hoped the Panel will make its decision known before racing in the Louis Vuitton Cup semi-finals is scheduled to start on Monday afternoon.

Louis Vuitton Media/ISAF News Editor
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