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Former America's Cup sailor Mitchell sues champion Oracle Team USA over scandal fallout


SAN DIEGO — A former America's Cup sailor is suing two-time defending champion Oracle Team USA for $400,000 for failing to fire or suspend a crewmate during the biggest cheating scandal in regatta history.

Matthew Mitchell, who lives in Auckland, New Zealand, sued Oracle Team USA in federal court in San Francisco on Monday. He contends his reputation was damaged after he was implicated by crewmate Simeon Tienpont for adding illegal ballast to a boat used in warmup regattas.

Although Tienpont admitted altering a catamaran, he was allowed to sail in the 2013 America's Cup match against Emirates Team New Zealand. Mitchell was suspended for the first four races by an international jury. He was unable to crack the crew list for the remaining races. Oracle rallied from an 8-1 deficit to win the final eight races and defeat Emirates Team New Zealand in one of the biggest comebacks in sports.

Tienpont is not party to the suit.

Mitchell, his attorney and Oracle Team USA officials did not immediately return emails seeking comment.

Late last year, Mitchell sued Oracle Team USA in state court for the $68,000 he spent on legal fees fighting accusations he helped illegally alter the catamaran.

Oracle Team USA is owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison, who isn't named in either action.

Tienpont was a grinder who had the crucial role of operating the hydrofoils on Oracle's 72-foot catamaran.

Mitchell's suit says Oracle Team USA "willfully and with malice" allowed Mitchell to take the blame so it could have Tienpont — "the indispensable sailor" — help OTUSA to victory.

Mitchell, a grinder who's been on three cup-winning teams, was cleared by the International Sailing Federation's Disciplinary Commission on Jan. 8. He repairs boats in Auckland and hasn't caught on with another team.

Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson

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