Sailor loses lawsuit against America’s Cup champion

A New Zealand sailor whose contract was terminated by America's Cup champion Oracle Team USA was denied his request that a prototype AC45 be confiscated as a seaman’s lien against unpaid wages.

Joe Spooner filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, asking federal marshals to "arrest" the foiling 45-foot catamaran, which the two-time America's Cup champion is testing on San Francisco Bay. A magistrate judge denied Spooner’s request this week.

Under U.S. maritime law, a vessel can be sued in federal court and be arrested by the Marshals Service, pending the outcome of a case.

The AC45 foiling multihull is raced in the America's Cup World Series and used for America's Cup training. It is a smaller version of the AC72, which was raced in the 2013 America's Cup.

Spooner said in his filing that his contract for $25,000 a month was terminated in January without cause, according to the New Zealand sports website Stuff. He was a grinder with Oracle Team USA during its America's Cup victories in 2010 and 2013.

Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero, in a lengthy opinion, ruled that Spooner failed to show that he was entitled to a maritime lien against the AC45 for seaman's wages, “effectively blowing Spooner’s case out of the water,” according to Boating law.com. Because Spooner was fully paid until the day that Team Oracle discharged him, he was not entitled to assert a lien for alleged future wages that had not been earned.

The lawsuit said Spooner was taking the action now because Oracle is expected to move the boat in the spring to Bermuda, which will host the America's Cup in 2017. Bermuda also will host a stop in the America's Cup World Series later this year.


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