OneWorld refute Reeves allegations

Central to the controversy former TNZ designer Laurie Davidson faces the press in Auckland

Tuesday February 12th 2002, Author: Nigel Cherrie, Location: Australasia
The America's Cup is alive and kicking. Yacht racing almost took a back seat today as the Sean Reeves versus OneWorld design secrets controversy escalated in a fresh war of words and statements.

It is well known that the designers can win and lose the America's Cup before the racing even begins so Reeves' well publicised claims are potentially very damaging to the future of the OneWorld campaign. One seasoned yachting journalist informed me that even by Cup standards, "this is big".

Today it was OneWorld's turn to stand up and defend themselves.

Early this morning OneWorld Challenge (OWC) CEO Gary Wright issued a statement to the challengers and defenders giving his teams perspective.

The statement acknowledges that OneWorld may have violated some America's Cup protocol rules. The details of these have been submitted to the America's Cup Arbitration Panel and are known by the other challengers and Team New Zealand.

Wright describes these as "mistakes, but we believe these to be minor, and not beneficial to the OWC design process". The statement goes on to say, "If we have not raised any of Reeves allegations in the Submission to the [Arbitration] Panel, then it is because there are no grounds or basis in fact. They are untrue and did not happen".

It is the honesty of people that is really questioned and OneWorld is emphatically committed to defending their personnel against Reeves accusations.

"I am saddened that several of our team members, men of integrity and of good standing in the America's Cup world have had allegations levelled at them by Reeves. I and all of us at OWC plan to stand behind these individuals fully and without reservation," continues Wright.

After the statement had been issued Wright and several key team personnel, including two former Team New Zealand members, went on the record in front of nearly 50 media.

As this saga is predominately about design violations, one was former TNZ and now OneWorld lead designer Laurie Davidson who had to face cameras, microphones and barrage of questions.

The exact details of all Reeves' claims against OneWorld that involve Davidson can be found in his legal defence and counterclaim filed at the US District Court (a public document) but one accusation and the first question pointed at Davidson centered on the claim the double Cup winning designer sold his famous black boat designs (NZL-57 and 60) to OneWorld in August 2000.

Reeves, the rules advisor for OneWorld at that time, also claims that Gary Wright had full knowledge of this and did not act against it.

"I have made my reputation over many many years designing boats and my ethics are such that I am not involved in stealing things from other teams," retorts Davidson. Of the eight designs he has drawn for OneWorld since, Davidson says "they were all different boats and in my opinion they were all better than the Team New Zealand boats".

Other questions fired at Davidson included the measurement certificate of NZL 57, colour photographs and a Team New Zealand folder of laminate specifications, which had made their way on to the OneWorld base at some time. Wright states none of these have ever been referred to in a professional capacity. Wright also said, "Laurie has shared copyright of 57 and 60 with Team New Zealand and that has been clarified with Team New Zealand".

Wright expects the America's Cup Arbitration Panel to come back to OneWorld within six to eight weeks with a ruling.

The America's Cup defenders are obviously taking the allegations very seriously. "If it was proven that any current or previous employee sold or released design information then you can rest assured that Team New Zealand would take all possible legal steps to remedy our position. We would aggressively pursue our rights," said Ross Blackman, Chief Executive of Team NZ.

The question remains whether it is all much ado about nothing or is the mud thicker than OneWorld are letting on? Someone is not telling the truth and it is now up to the American legal system to decide.

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