US Sailing files lawsuit against America One Racing

Sailing on open ocean.

US Sailing, the governing body for sailing in the United States, has filed a lawsuit against its competitor, the America One Racing Foundation, and three of its principals and employees, alleging that its actions have ‘harmed, and continue to harm, athletes, the US Sailing Team, and US Sailing.’

US Sailing says it is acting upon the findings of a recently completed independent review by the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC).

In the official complaint, US Sailing says the defendants have conspired together in a ‘variety of wrongful, tortious, and duplicitous conduct, intentionally and maliciously designed and undertaken to harm, if not destroy, US Sailing’s business and reputation with its donors and financial sponsors, with competitive sailors, and within the larger sailing community and the Olympic movement’.

In other words, US Sailing accuses America One of trying to position itself misleadingly as the de facto national governing body for the sport of sailing in the United States, to eventually succeed US Sailing.

The lawsuit stems from an incident a year ago, in February 2023, when the US Olympic Sailing Programme faced a suite of resignations, from the executive director Paul Cayard to elite coaches and members of the fundraising committee. The team also lost branding from its title sponsor.

Cayard later told press he had been “forced out” in the face of a restructuring of the Olympic team’s management. Speaking to AP after his resignation, he said he had been informed “just minutes” before a board of directors meeting that he would be asked to focus on fundraising while someone else ran the team.

More resignations quickly followed the restructuring, including United States Sailing Foundation chairman Bill Ruh and performance director Leandro Spina. The resignations were understood to be a show of support for Cayard.

The incident led to the formation of America One Racing, a private foundation and developmental programme for elite sailors, based in California.

US Sailing, which has named Cayard, Spina and Ruh in its lawsuit, says that the actions of the trio and America One have ‘harmed athletes, the US Sailing Team, and US Sailing’s business and reputation with donors, sponsors, competitive sailors, and the larger sailing community and Olympic movement.’

US Sailing says that America One has interfered with its business relationships, leading to funding losses of over $4m, and is seeking in excess of $5m in damages for financial losses, damage to reputation and breach of contract — including ‘misuse of trade secrets’ by Cayard, Ruh, and Spina after they left US Sailing.

US Sailing states that: ‘US Sailing, as the National Governing Body, is compelled to respond and take all reasonable and appropriate steps to redress that harm, obtain the monetary remedies for the benefit of our athletes and their continued competitive endeavours, and enable the US Sailing Team to best move forward.’

US Sailing says it ‘reaffirms its ongoing commitment to support our athletes, move forward, and improve our Olympic operations and the performance of our athletes in Paris and beyond’ and that any damages recovered in the lawsuit will ‘support the athletes as intended.’

US Sailing’s complaint (filed in the United States District Court in Rhode Island) is publicly available online.

The news underlines the continued slump of the US Olympic team, which has won just one medal in the last three Olympics — a bronze in 2016 — and has been overtaken by Britain on the all-time sailing medals table.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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