February 19, 2015

A New Zealand sailor whose contract was terminated by America's Cup champion Oracle Team USA has filed suit in federal court seeking to have the syndicate's prototype boat confiscated as a seaman's lien against unpaid wages.

Joe Spooner filed suit in U.S. District Court asking federal marshals to ''arrest'' the foiling 45-foot catamaran that the two-time America's Cup champion is testing on San Francisco Bay and keeps at Pier 80.

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

Oracle Team USA declined comment.

Spooner's attorney, Patricia Barlow of San Francisco, said more filings are due Friday morning.

Spooner's total claim is for $750,000.

According to the lawsuit, Spooner is 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 on the America's Cup World Series later this year.

The 45-foot catamaran Spooner is asking to have confiscated was built to foil, or ride up on hydrofoils once it reaches a certain speed. Oracle is testing the boat as it prepares to build a 62-foot catamaran that will be used to defend the America's Cup in 2017. Foiling 72-foot catamarans were used in the America's Cup in 2013, when Oracle Team USA rallied from an 8-1 deficit to win eight straight races and defeat Emirates Team New Zealand.

Spooner's contract was to pay him from July 1, 2014, until seven days after the 35th America's Cup in June 2017. He also was to have received a bonus of not less than six months' salary if Oracle Team USA successfully defended the America's Cup in 2017.

Listed as defendants are Oracle Racing Inc., owned by billionaire Larry Ellison, and the multihull foiling AC45 known as 4 Oracle Team USA, along with all of its systems and wing sail.

Ellison is not named in the suit.

This is the second suit filed against Oracle Racing in two months.

In mid-December, Kiwi grinder Matt Mitchell sued for the $68,000 he has spent on legal fees fighting accusations he helped illegally alter a catamaran used in a warmup regatta before the 2013 America's Cup.

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

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