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America's Cup defender hit with harsh penalties

The U.S. boat that seeks to defend its America's Cup title starting this weekend will be saddled with a disadvantage and will sail without a key crew member after officials handed down the harshest penalty in the history of the 162-year-old race.

The sanctions address misbehavior by Oracle Team USA in a series of pre-Cup races dating back to 2012. The team added too much ballast to two of its three boats that competed in those races.

"The rules infractions involved only a few of our 130 team members, and were done without the knowledge of either our team's management or the skippers who were driving the boats," team CEO Randy Coutts said in a statement released to the Associated Press. "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 is financed by tech billionaire Larry Ellison, whose boat must now win 11 races against Emirates Team New Zealand to hold onto the Cup. The New Zealand boat must win only nine.

In addition, an international jury expelled Oracle crew member Dirk de Ridder, who trims the wing sail on the 72-foot catamaran, along with two shore crew members. Grinder Matt Mitchell has been barred from the first four races and sailor Kyle Langford was given a warning.

Coutts had previously characterized the improper modifications as a "ridiculous mistake."

The America's Cup final is scheduled to begin Saturday on San Francisco Bay.


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