SAN FRANCISCO -- After Italy's Luna Rossa handily won its third race in the Louis Vuitton Cup semifinals Friday, skipper Max Sirena lashed out against Oracle Team USA, which is under investigation for hiding lead pellets in the boats it raced in the America's Cup World Series last year.
"I'm not happy for my sport, not happy for the people watching us and especially because they are always the guys that are playing these games really clean and nice, but in reality they are always the guys that try to cheat," Sirena said with a strong Italian accent after Friday's decisive win over Sweden's Artemis Racing. "I don't even look at them anymore. I lost my -- how do you say in English? -- my respect. I lost my respect for them completely."
The latest trouble to hit the America's Cup is an embarrassing humiliation at the least for Oracle Team USA. The team has already forfeited its World Series trophies, but whether the team will be penalized by the international jury investigating the matter, or whether the America's Cup next month will be affected, remains to be seen.
Russell Coutts, CEO of Oracle Team USA, acknowledged Friday that the infraction is "serious," even though it occurred in 45-foot catamarans during four races in the ACWS last year.
The infraction was a "mistake" committed by unnamed workers without the knowledge of the team's management or skippers, Coutts said. When the problem was brought to the team's attention, the team immediately forfeited its titles.
"We don't condone breaking the rules," Coutts said. "We had a policy in place. That policy wasn't followed."
Coutts said this incident is nothing if not "stupidity," because adding "lead shot" inside the front "king posts" didn't help the overall performance of the boat.
"It's pretty obvious it's not designers that were involved," he said. "If you had designer input, they would have told you not to do it. It's actually going to make the boat go slightly slower."
The extra weight was discovered by a boat builder preparing one of the AC45s for the Red Bull Youth America's Cup next month. After America's Cup measurement committee members inspected it, they concluded that "the modifications appear to be intentional efforts" to circumvent the class rules "and are therefore serious in nature." The three AC45s in question were sailed by Oracle, as well as Ben Ainslie Racing.
Ainslie, an Olympic gold medalist who borrowed an Oracle boat to sail for Britain in the ACWS last summer, and Emirates Team New Zealand issued comments Friday.
"As skipper of the boat I had no knowledge whatsoever that the boat was being raced out of measurement," Ainslie said in a statement. "I am deeply disappointed by this incident and will do all I can to assist the relevant parties in any further investigations."
Grant Dalton, managing director of the New Zealand team, said he was "stunned" by the revelations.
"I find it difficult to believe that what we learned last night actually happened at the top level of our sport," Dalton said.
The only team making light of the news was Iain Percy, skipper of Sweden's Artemis Racing. He said he was so busy preparing for Friday's race against Luna Rossa that he barely had a chance to focus on Oracle's troubles, except to "have a chuckle, feel sorry for my mates across the way then get on with the race today."
The revelations overshadowed Race 3 of the best-of-seven Louis Vuitton Cup semifinals between Luna Rossa and Artemis Racing. On Friday both teams sailed their best races, with each improving its tactics and speed. Luna Rossa had a perfect start, hydrofoiled well through its downwind turns and beat Artemis by 1 minute, 18 seconds.
The teams face each other at 1:15 p.m. Saturday. If the Italians win, the Swedes will be eliminated and Luna Rossa will advance to the Louis Vuitton finals against New Zealand.
Contact Julia Prodis Sulek at 408-278-3409.
Luna Rossa Challenge 3,
Artemis Racing 0
All races begin at 1:15 p.m.
Saturday: Race 4, 3 p.m. tape delay on NBC Sports Network
Monday*: Race 5, 1 p.m., KNTV
Tuesday*: Race 6, 1 p.m., KNTV
Thursday*: Race 7, 1 p.m., KNTV
* -- if necessary