Court rules against America’s Cup defender

Published on March 7th, 2015

Marshals have been authorized to seize America’s Cup champion Oracle Team USA’s prototype boat in response to a lien filed by sailor Joe Spooner, whose contract was terminated in January.

The warrant was issued late Friday (Mar 6) by clerk Richard Wieking of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The boat hadn’t been seized as of mid-day Saturday, Oracle Team USA spokesman Peter Rusch said.

It’s believed the boat is still at Oracle’s base at Pier 80 in San Francisco. The syndicate, owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison, is in the process of moving its operations to Bermuda, where it has chosen to defend the America’s Cup in 2017.

Spooner, a New Zealander, sued Oracle Team USA last month, saying his contract for $25,000 a month was terminated without cause. He was a grinder with Oracle Team USA during its America’s Cup victories in 2010 and 2013.

Chief Magistrate Joseph Spero denied Spooner’s initial complaint on Feb. 23, but said he could file an amended complaint. Spooner’s attorney, Patricia Barlow of San Francisco, filed an amended complaint Friday.

She said Spooner had obtained a visa that required him to be working under a fixed-term contract, and that Oracle argued that the sailor had an at-will contract.

“They tried to run with the hares and hunt with the hounds,” she said by phone Saturday.

Besides the visa issue, Spooner’s complaint alleges that Oracle Team USA retaliated against him for asking if his monthly salary could be raised to $38,000 to cover the expense of relocating to Bermuda. Spooner was offered a $4,000 a month relocation housing allowance, but said it would cost around $7,500 a month for suitable housing for his family, as well as other expenses to live on the island for the America’s Cup cycle.

Spooner is seeking at least $725,000 in damages. – AP, full story

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