Rome

Luna Rossa boycott threat hangs over America's Cup

Italians and Team New Zealand angry at rule changes

Luna Rossa boycott threat hangs over America's Cup

(By Paul Virgo) Rome, July 5 - The 34th America's Cup officially kicked off with an opening ceremony in San Francisco on Friday, but it is still not certain that Italian team Luna Rossa will be in the water when competition is set to start on Sunday. Prada-backed Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand have both presented appeals against rule changes introduced following a training accident by Swedish outfit Artemis in May in which British sailor Andrew Simpson died. The 37 changes to the rules are designed to boost the safety of the extremely fast and hard-to-handle AC72-class of wingsailed catamarans being used in the challenger series, the Louis Vuitton Cup, and the America's Cup proper. The Italians and the New Zealanders agreed to almost all of the changes, but fear that two of them may favour the defending team, BMW Oracle of the United States. These regard additional weight and the use of equipment called rudder elevators, which control the catamarans when they hydro-foil. The problem is that the America's Cup jury is not set to decide until Monday on Team New Zealand's petition that Regatta Director Iain Murray exceeded his powers with these rule changes. There is no schedule yet for the Luna Rossa protest. "Luna Rossa is indeed in favour of the introduction of new and more stringent safety regulations," the Italian team said in a statement. "But the measures regarding rudders, rudder elevators as well as the increased displacement have nothing to do with safety, since their only reason and effect to increase the speed and performance of the boat... "Luna Rossa is eager to race in the 34th America's Cup and be respectful of the rules governing it, but it will not accept any imposition contrary to the rules under which it has challenged". The row risks escalating. Murray has said that his safety measures form "a package" and the teams cannot "pick and choose". He added that if the jury decision goes against him, he will inform the Coast Guard and warned that they may stop the regatta. Artemis has so far stayed out of the row. The Swedes are not due to start racing until the end of this month after one of their boats was destroyed in the accident in which 2008 Olympic gold medallist Simpson died. Luna Rossa is taking part in its fourth America's Cup after competing in 2000, 2003 and 2007 for the oldest active trophy in international sport, which was first awarded in 1851. The Italian team's best America's Cup campaign was their first one, in 2000, when they won the Louis Vuitton Cup to earn the right to challenge for the America's Cup before being whitewashed 5-0 by New Zealand in the decisive series.

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