AC35: Challengers united against Kiwi stance
Emirates Team New Zealand's objection to the rule changes made to the 35th America's Cup has been condemned by rival syndicates.
In addition to being upset with the decision that led to the withdrawal of Italian team Luna Rossa, the New Zealanders are up in arms over a proposal to switch the America's Cup qualifying regatta from Auckland to Bermuda.
The majority of the teams expressed a desire to have the event held in Bermuda at a competitor forum that comprised the six original entrants.
The New Zealanders have accused the organisers of “illegally withdrawing” Auckland as the venue for the regatta and filed its case with the America's Cup arbitration panel.
Switching the event from Auckland could potentially have serious repercussions for Emirates Team New Zealand, whose funding is believed to be connected to the event.
However, the manner in which the Kiwis have characterised the rule changes, which include the introduction of a new 48ft wing-sail foiling catamaran as opposed to the 62-footer, does not sit well with the rival syndicates, whose primary motivation is cost-cutting for this America's Cup and in future.
“We are disappointed to see how Team New Zealand are characterising the rule changes that reflect the collective will of the America's Cup teams,” read a joint statement from Artemis Racing, Ben Ainslie Racing, Team France and Oracle Team USA, the defender. “During discussions last month, all six teams, including Team New Zealand, agreed on the need to change to a smaller boat to reduce costs.
“While Luna Rossa supported a less dramatic change, a majority of teams agreed on what has become the America's Cup Class, a new rule written in consultation with all teams, with drafts of the rule sent to all teams for comment and feedback.
“Each team that voted for this new America's Cup Class made compromises and sacrifices to get this done for the betterment of the America's Cup.
“Taking these important decisions by a majority vote is something that was insisted upon by Luna Rossa and written into the rules of the event.
“Regrettably, abiding by the results of the majority vote appears to be something neither they, nor Team New Zealand, are willing to do ... unless they are part of the majority.
“We hope that Team New Zealand can see a way forward, as we all have, and look forward to racing them in the Americas Cup World Series later this year.”
Oracle Team USA's most fierce rivals also bemoaned the departure of Luna Rossa yesterday, team principal Patrizio Bertelli coming good on his threat, which has now put in doubt the opening event of the America's Cup World Series, scheduled for June 4 to 7 in Cagliari.
“We are quite frankly in disbelief that the continued actions of the America's Cup Event Authority [ACEA] have lead to the withdrawal of our great friends Luna Rossa,” Grant Dalton, the Emirates Team New Zealand CEO, said. “It sends a clear and unmistakable message that the self-serving manoeuvring of rules within sport's oldest trophy has consequences for not only the America's Cup but also all of sailing.”
Under the original protocol, the America's Cup class rules could be changed only by unanimous consent, but Oracle Team USA reportedly led an amendment to change the class rule to a majority vote.
Luna Rossa have been one of the strongest challengers since 2000, when they reached the America's Cup Match before being swept in five races by Team New Zealand.
“Following a careful evaluation of the serious implications of this unprecedented initiative, Team Luna Rossa confirms that it will withdraw from the 35th America's Cup,” a team statement said.
“Team Luna Rossa indeed considers illegitimate the procedure adopted and founded on an evident abuse of process by surreptitious use of procedures to modify the protocol in order to overturn the class rule, which instead requires the unanimity of the teams entered.
“This is an attempt to introduce boats that are substantially monotypes and in total contrast with the ultra-centennial tradition of the America's Cup, not to mention a two-month extension period to introduce further modifications to the rules, decided by the majority.”
In response to the Italians' action, Harvey Schiller, the ACEA's commercial commissioner, said: “I know all are disappointed with this decision taken by Luna Rossa, especially based upon their significant history in the America's Cup.
“Since we started the competitor forum, I've worked closely with skipper Max Sirena on many issues facing the America's Cup and our teams. We offered a range of solutions for reducing costs by introducing a new America's Cup Class. Unfortunately, Luna Rossa wasn't prepared to accept the majority decision, as written in accordance with the rules of the event.
“It's difficult to understand this withdrawal when our shared purpose has been to control expenses, encourage additional entries and build a better future for the Cup. It's even more puzzling as it was Luna Rossa who insisted on the switch to majority rule on these issues.
“But, looking at the bigger picture, the America's Cup is now more accessible for new teams and, with a new generation of people like Ben Ainslie, Nathan Outteridge, Jimmy Spithill, Franck Cammas and Pete Burling, we have a strong foundation for a very competitive event.”