Aucklandgate: The latest accusations

Team New Zealand accuse OneWorld of more foul play.

Tuesday May 7th 2002, Author: Nigel Cherrie, Location: Australasia
A fresh round of accusations, claims and counterclaims relating to the design secrets for cash scandal that rocked the America’s Cup world earlier this year have surfaced in Auckland. And it's getting bitter, with America’s Cup defenders Team New Zealand now openly challenging the integrity of the US OneWorld Challenge through the America’s Cup Arbitration Panel.

While this is not new news in the Cup world, the amount and sensitivity of the confidential information allegedly known by the American team is. The lion, a normally quiet and reserved Team New Zealand, has been
roused from its den is starting to roar. Team New Zealand now clearly fear that OneWorld know considerably more than has previously been admitted, including the deck layout and rudder, keel, hull and mast specifications of NZL-60.

The saga began in 2000 when Auckland lawyer, Sean Reeves left his post as Rules Advisor with the Cup holders to set up telecommunications billionaire Craig McCaw’s US$100m OneWorld campaign. Reeves subsequently lured some of his former Team New Zealand colleagues to the Seattle challenge with big cash incentives. But the new partnership didn’t last long. After a rift with the OneWorld management Reeves left. This is where the story turned sour.

It is alleged that Reeves broke his confidentiality agreement and approached first Chris Dickson at Oracle, GBR Challenge General Manager David Barnes and finally Bill Trenkle at Team Dennis Conner’s Stars and Stripes syndicate. If the allegations made by the three teams who were approached are to be believed, Reeves was pedalling design information from both the OneWorld and Team New Zealand programmes.

Dickson and Barnes competed with Reeves in the Olympic classes back in the 1980s and Reeves now alleges that they are conspiring against him due to past disagreements over Olympic selection. Trenkle has no history or prior connection with Reeves.

All three men have sworn affidavits stating that Reeves tried to sell OneWorld and Team New Zealand secrets to their respective challenges. OneWorld has gone further and issued a writ against Reeves in a United States District Court.

In February of this year the plot thickened. Reeves launched his defence and counter-sued for defamation and filed an affidavit brimming with damaging accusations against OneWorld. He claims that OneWorld Chief Designer, Laurie Davidson held the measurement certificates for the two Kiwi boats, colour photos of tests and models and details of the revolutionary Millennium Rig. Reeves also named other former Team New Zealand men, who he stated had knowingly violated protocol in various ways.

OneWorld, at a remarkable press conference in February, admitted publicly they had made some mistakes, but added that Reeves was the perpetrator in most cases. He had given Davidson the measurement certificates and they lay unused and forgotten in a draw. The photo album was only on the OneWorld base for twenty minutes on its way back to Team New Zealand when Reeves noticed them.

OneWorld insist that Davidson could redraw his own designs to within centimetres and so this information had no worth to them. It should be remembered here that in the America’s Cup, millimetres will make the difference between wining and losing, let alone centimetres.

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