Gay Man Sues America’s Cup
A gay former America’s Cup employee is suing operators of the yacht race, claiming he was wrongfully terminated after top officials mocked his sexuality.
In his civil complaint filed March 13 in San Francisco Superior Court, Larry Jacobson, who worked as a VIP spectator boat captain during the races last summer, says one man made a limp wrist gesture at him, while another called him a "poof," a derogatory term for homosexual.
However, a former supervisor told the Bay Area Reporter that Jacobson had "pushed his sexuality very hard" and had been "inappropriate."
Jacobson is claiming sexual orientation discrimination, failure to pay overtime, and failure to pay wages upon discharge, among other complaints. He’s seeking unlimited damages exceeding $25,000.
The complaint names ACRM Operations US, LLC; America’s Cup Race Management; and America’s Cup Event Authority, LLC specifically as defendants. America’s Cup officials hadn’t responded in court as of Tuesday morning and either couldn’t be reached by the B.A.R. for comment or didn’t respond.
In his complaint, Jacobson says he was hired in June 2013 as a spectator boat captain for the races, which ran from July through September and drew competitors including billionaire Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and thousands of viewers to San Francisco’s waterfront. Oracle Team USA prevailed in one of the greatest comebacks in sports, defeating Emirates Team New Zealand in the race series by 9-8, and the team had to win the last eight races in the come-from-behind victory.
After Jacobson was hired, co-workers and superiors knew he was openly gay, his complaint says. He also gave copies of his book "The Boy Behind the Gate" to Andy Hindley, chief operating officer for America’s Cup Race Management; the wife of Harold Bennett, who was then America’s Cup director of on-water operations; and David Powys, Jacobson’s direct supervisor, according to the filing. The book covers Jacobson’s experience sailing around the world with his same-sex partner. (His sailing exploits and his hiring for the America’s Cup was covered in the B.A.R. ’s sports column last year and in 2007.)
"Although initially friendly to Mr. Jacobson, Mr. Hindley and Mr. Bennett became cold and unfriendly toward him," the complaint says.
Jacobson claims that in August, he approached Hindley to request that he be considered for doing break down work once the regatta was over.
Hindley "made a ’limp wrist’ gesture" and said, "People like you don’t want work like that," Jacobson claims, and he didn’t get the job.
Then, at a party in September, Bennett told friends, "That’s our poof," referring to Jacobson, according to the complaint. Bennett lives primarily in New Zealand, where "poof" is a derogatory term for gay men.