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Americas Cup sued for denying Black team admission

Juliana D. Norwood | 6/20/2012, 5 p.m.

One man's two-year attempt to integrate the upcoming 34th America's Cup will now be heard in oral arguments before the Supreme Court of the State of New York on June 27, 2012. Charles M. Kithcart, executive director of African Diaspora Maritime (ADM), has filed suit against the Golden Gate Yacht Club (GGYC), current trustee of the America's Cup. "The America's Cup is the premiere sailing competition in the world and what we will do is crew a predominantly African American/African heritage team of experienced, international sailors to compete in an upcoming Defender Selection Series," said Kithcart a veteran mariner.

ADM sought to compete in a Defender Selection Series against the yacht club's preferred representative, Team Oracle Racing, led by Larry Ellison, billionaire CEO/Founder Oracle Corp. ADM is the only team from the United States who applied to compete against Team Oracle Racing for the right to become Defender.

"GGYC was obligated to do two things: review and accept applicants that have the necessary resources and experience to have a reasonable chance of winning," the lawsuit alleges. "They breached those obligations by rejecting ADM's application for purely pretextual and ever-shifting reasons."

"I just want to integrate a sport that really needs some integration," Kithcart said.

Kithcart is the founder of African Diaspora Maritime, a North Carolina-based organization dedicated to getting more African Americans involved in yacht racing, a predominantly White sport.

Kithcart's team submitted their $25,000 entrance fee, but weren't accepted into the competition.

Though ADM seems to be alleging that race played a part in their denial, the club maintains that race has nothing to do with it.

GGYC claimed that ADM was denied because they "lacked the financial wherewithal to compete."

"The suit is totally and utterly without merit," said Tom Ehman, GGYC's vice commodore. "At best it's a PR stunt, and at worst it's holding us up for money."

However, ADM charges that bids by other teams in similar financial situations were accepted and, in the months since rejecting ADM's bid, GGYC has lowered the funding requirements for competing teams from $4 million down to $325,000.

Ehman explained that ADM's application made it clear that the team simply didn't have the resources to make such an enormous commitment. "We're under no obligation to accept multiple teams," he said, noting the club refunded ADM's entrance fee after rejecting its application. "It's a huge distraction when teams compete without the proper preparation, only to get immediately walked all over. It could easily end up with one of the boats getting damaged or the sailors getting hurt."

Team Oracle Racing, has consistently raced for the last three years and reportedly spent $400 million to get it done in 2010. ADM doesn't even have a boat yet.

"My feeling is that all Oracle has to do to blow the Diaspora team out of the water is to ask them to produce a boat," said boat designer and former Yacht Report Magazine editor Roger Marshall.

"In order to have everything ready in time for the race, they'd have to start building by next week or so."