By Pamela MacLean
(Bloomberg) — Defending America’s Cup champion Oracle Racing Inc. avoided the impoundment of one of its sailboats in a dispute with a sailor who claims he was wrongfully thrown off the team.
The sailor had used maritime law to win a court order prohibiting the AC45-class racing catamaran from being moved while he sought pay for his termination. A federal magistrate judge in San Francisco vacated the order after a hearing Tuesday.
Joseph Spooner, a New Zealander, started working in 2014 on a contract basis for Larry Ellison’s Oracle Team USA. After the 163-year-old sailing competition was moved to Bermuda, Schooner and team got into a fight over salary and relocation expenses, resulting in his termination, according to court records.
Spooner, who’s seeking $750,000 in damages, was initially able to place a lien on the yacht after asserting that it was going to be shipped imminently to Bermuda, according to a court filing.
On further review, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero concluded that because Spooner was hired to sail for Oracle Team USA without explicit reference to a specific vessel he had no right to a lien through the use of a so-called Admiralty arrest of the catamaran.
Oracle Team USA completed the biggest comeback in the history of the America’s Cup in September 2013, beating Emirates Team New Zealand 9-8 after trailing 8-1.
Bermuda, about 700 miles (1,126 kilometers) east of the North Carolina coast, will host the event in 2017.
The case is Spooner v. Multi Hull Foiling AC45 Vessel “4 Oracle Team USA,” 15-cv-00692, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco.)
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