America's Cup: Threat increases as teams set to boycott opening

Italian team Luna Rossa has said they will not show up for first race on Sunday

It is a case of high stakes brinkmanship. The threat to call off the America’s Cup the day after it begins on Sunday is still in place. The Italian team Luna Rossa, backed by Prada boss Patrizio Bertelli, has said it will not show up for its first race against Emirates team New Zealand on Sunday.

The third challenger, Sweden’s Artemis racing, has said it may not be able to take part at all if last-minute changes are not made to the design rules, and the planned opening race for all three plus the defender, Oracle, had to be called off because there was a forecast wind of over 20 knots.

The trade in insults becomes more acrimonious, Oracle boss and architect of the new America’s Cup Russell Coutts describing the Italians as a spoiled bunch of rich kids. His backer Larry Ellison, of Oracle software house fame, is one of the richest men in the world and has poured hundreds of millions of dollars first into winning the 1851 cup and then setting up a circus that was meant to switch its appeal from the Flintstone to the Facebook generation.

If the whole thing falls apart, the cost in terms of the half billion dollars already spent on developing boats, or the hundreds of millions of dollars committed to spectator facilities and travelling, or investment by local businesses, and lost revenue for hospitality programmes already in tatters, would bring tears to the eyes.

An event which lives on its history, tradition and unfathomable quirkiness looks like a very scantily-clad emperor after a series of blunders and broken promises. Elegant it ain’t.

The most recent furore has seen the race director, Iain Murray, a quiet spoken but full-blooded Aussie, saying he felt insulted by “farcical” insinuations from some of the competitors.

Both the organisers and the competitors have accused each other of exploiting the death of British Olympic gold medallist Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson in a training accident.

After the Swedish 72-foot wing-powered catamaran on which he was sailing was all but destroyed within sight of the Golden Gate Bridge, an inquiry headed by Murray led to recommendations on 22 May designed to improve safety, and two of them have been protested both Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa.

The opening ceremony was on 4 July with a parade of sail – a forecast of 20-knot winds meant that the AC boats did not compete in a fleet race - on Friday and the first proper racing is scheduled for Sunday. Only two of the three challengers are able to race for the first month at least as the Swedes try to regroup.

On Saturday a five-person international jury, four men and a woman, not due to convene until Monday was being urged to bring forward its consideration of complaints that Murray has exceeded his powers by changing the design rules with six weeks to go.  Without that, said Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena, the Italians would not race.

Running alongside is the thought by some that this might either give advantage to the locally-based defender, software billionaire Larry Ellison’s Oracle, or remove hard-won advantage developed by the challengers. Nonsense says Murray.

As did Paul Cayard, who described such allegations as “slanderous and paranoid” adding that if the protests are upheld that would force Artemis out of the event.

Murray says that if the Kiwi/Italian argument prevails he will report to the US Coastguard that the package of 37 recommendations, on which he says the event’s permit to race rely and have been converted into event rules, cannot be delivered.

Locally it is claimed that the USCG will be able to live with the 35 and Murray will be able to say he did his best. Eventually, things will be settled on the water, though that will not be until September when Oracle races the winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup elimination series.

Whatever happens, the event has taken a costly knock. Whatever happens, it will live to fight another day. Vast amounts of valuable experience, commercial, sporting and technological, have been banked.

And, if the boats are close in performance, the best of 17 which starts on 7 September, assuming they can both stay in one piece, may produce the lushest of fig leaves in the form of the most spectacular racing in 162 years. 

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders