Luna Rossa withdraws from America’s Cup over boat size change

ROME (AP) — Luna Rossa followed through with its threat to pull out of the 2017 America’s Cup on April 2, and blasted decisions by the organizers that the Italian challenger called unprecedented and illegitimate.

Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand voted on March 31 against reducing the size of the catamarans for the second time in less than a year.

However, both teams were overruled by a majority of teams, led by two-time defending champion Oracle Team USA. The other challengers were Artemis Racing of Sweden, Ben Ainslie Racing of Britain, and Team France.

The America’s Cup class rules could only be changed by unanimous consent, but Oracle Team USA last week led an amendment to change the class rule to a majority vote.

Luna Rossa, backed by the fashion house Prada, said before the vote “it will be obliged to withdraw” if the rules were disrespected, and it was backed by Team New Zealand.

“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,” a team statement said.

The 2013 America’s Cup in San Francisco was raced in 72-foot cats. Last June, the teams unanimously agreed to reduce the boats to 62 feet. Now, the boats are down to 48 feet for the 2017 regatta in Bermuda.

Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton said the continued action of the America’s Cup Event Authority “sends a clear and unmistakable message that the self-serving maneuvering of rules within sports’ oldest trophy has consequences for not only the America’s Cup but also all of sailing.”

Team New Zealand also said that it is going to arbitration to restore the 2017

America’s Cup qualifying regatta in New Zealand, after a majority of teams voted to hold the entire race in Bermuda to save money.

Luna Rossa said it has also taken into consideration the possibility to protest through the Arbitration Panel as foreseen by the Protocol; it has however noted that10 months after signing the Protocol, the Defender is only now initiating the first formal procedures to compose this important body. This fact contributes to making the entire governance of the Event even less credible and reliable.

The America’s Cup teams which voted in March to downsize the catamarans for the 2017 regatta have hit back at unhappy squads Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Challenge, suggesting hypocrisy.

In a joint statement from cup holder Oracle Team USA and challengers Artemis Racing (Sweden), Ben Ainslie Racing (Britain), and Team France on April 2, they expressed disappointment at Team New Zealand’s reaction to rule changes, some of which were “insisted upon by Luna Rossa.”

But the four teams which decided to downsize the boats to reduce costs said on April 3 all the teams, including Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand, agreed on the move in discussions last month.

The four said the new rule was written in consultation with all teams, and a draft was sent to all teams for feedback.

While the downsizing was considered a major cost-cutting move, Luna Rossa was believed to be at an advanced stage in its development of a larger boat.

Luna Rossa boss Patrizio Bertelli said pulling out has meant throwing 20 million euros ($21.6 million) “down the drain.”

In Italian daily La Repubblica on April 3, Bertelli said the cup organizers, led by Oracle Team USA, were “imperialists.”

He said he was upset that the rules agreed to last July for the 2017 regatta in Bermuda, which set in motion the millions invested, were changed again to trim the boat from 62 feet to 48 feet.

“A protocol is a protocol. The winner of a competition launches the challenge and proposes rules. The challengers accept it, and sign a document. Everyone. Then at a certain point they take it and change the rules,” he said.

“You want to know what the crazy thing is? That when they showed us the first protocol — the one we all conformed to and invested in — we screamed to the entire world that it was wrong and cost too much, and we proposed 55-foot boats. But they kept going straight ahead, forcing us to invest in these projects that they want to throw away now. They’re not serious people and I don’t want to have anything to do with them.

“As far as I’m concerned, the America’s Cup ends here. Forever. Irrevocably.”

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