Prada fashion house boss Patrizio Bertelli has announced that he is pulling Italy and his Luna Rossa sailing team out of the next America’s Cup in 2017.
This follows a decision taken on Tuesday by a majority of the participants to change once again the rules, including the introduction of a new boat, unspecified, but probably a 48-foot foiling catamaran, in place of the published choice and design rules for a 62-foot foiling catamaran.
The announcement throws into confusion plans for a warm-up regatta at the Italian team base city of Cagliari in southern Sardinia in June and their participation in the second of the four 2015 warm-up regattas in Portsmouth in July. It appears that both are off the agenda.
Bertelli is annoyed at the changes after having spent considerable sums of money developing the designs of the 62-footer. It is not just like Formula 1 saying it will scrap published plans for the car mid-way through their development; it is at the behest of one team, the defender, which also controls the organisation of the next event.
Britain’s BAR challenge, headed by Ben Ainslie, had voted in favour of the change, citing cost-cutting as the main reason. But, Ainslie was also against staging an elimination series in Auckland at the beginning of 2017, the year when the next America’s Cup is to be held in Bermuda. Team New Zealand was also against the changes, not least because essential funding, some of it from the government, was dependent on bringing that regatta to New Zealand.
It puts New Zealand participation in the whole event in jeopardy. Team New Zealand has been winner of the right to be sole challenger to the Californian holder Oracle Team USA in San Francisco in 2013 and held an 8-1 lead in a first to nine wins final only to go down 9-8.
The French challenge had voted in favour of the changes, but still has not been able to announce funding for 2017, so the only two certain challenges are from Britain and Sweden’s Artemis Challenge, led by Ainslie’s friend, rival, and fellow Olympic gold medallist Iain Percy.
The organising America’s Cup Event Authority, headed by Harvey Schiller, continues to talk confidently of a late entry from Japan and hopes that the introduction of a supposedly cheaper to build and run boat could even entice other late challengers.
In a statement brimming with controlled anger, Luna Rossa said: “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.
“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.
“All of the above contributes to a lack of credibility and uncertain technical grounds for what should instead be the most sophisticated sailing competition in the world.”
Luna Rossa said it is considering appealing to an arbitration panel, but acknowledged that such a panel has yet to be constituted, and Luna Rossa spokesman Francesco Langanese Cattani said: “The adventure is over.”
“We are very sorry to hear the disappointing news regarding Luna Rossa’s future in the America's Cup,” said Ben Ainslie. “They have been great participants in the Cup over the last 15 years, bringing their individual brand of flair, talent and determination.
“BAR stands by the importance of the new ‘AC class rule’, which we see as being critical to creating a future for the America's Cup whilst continuing the design challenge which is a passion for so many fans of the Cup.”