Team NZ bemused by threat to axe America's Cup

By Dana Johannsen, in San Francisco

America's Cup regatta director Iain Murray. Photo / Getty Images
America's Cup regatta director Iain Murray. Photo / Getty Images

Team New Zealand are bemused by America's Cup regatta director Iain Murray's threats to scuttle the event unless his safety recommendations are upheld by the international jury.

A "very upset" Murray called a briefing in San Francisco this morning to explain the more contentious points of his 37 safety recommendations introduced in the wake of the death of Artemis sailor Andrew Simpson, in an effort to clear up what he regards as "misinformation" coming from some of the teams.

Emirates Team New Zealand and Italian team Luna Rossa have each lodged protests with the international jury over the Murray's recommendation regarding rudder elevators. The five-member jury is scheduled to meet on Tuesday to hear the protest.

In the meantime the debate has descended into a bitter war of words, with Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena describing the behaviour of Oracle and Artemis as "shameful" and exploitative. The Italian also intimated his team will consider boycotting the event if the jury does not rule in their favour.

However, Murray said if the jury does not uphold his recommendations as they now sit, there will be no event at all.

Given the 37 recommendations form part of the document he put to the Coastguard authorities in his application for a marine event permit, Murray said should any of those points be altered, it will jeopardise the permit.

Racing in the Louis Vuitton Cup will get underway on Monday before the jury has a chance to hear the arguments from both sides. The start of the event has not been delayed by the protest as the only two teams racing at this stage are the Kiwis and Italians, both of whom built their boats to comply with the original design rules.

Murray's alterations to the rules would not make their existing rudders illegal, it simply extends the rule to allow for rudder elevators and symmetrical rudders.

Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton therefore asks why, if their rudders are already deemed safe, is the event under threat should their protest be upheld?

"What kind of makes you go 'huh?' is, if it's okay to sail with the asymmetric rudders, then why do we need the symmetric ones?" he said.

"If we just do the sensible test on that one - if they're both allowed, then the inference is they are both safe, so it shouldn't jeopardise the permit."

Murray believes the changes to the rudders are essential to being able to safely control the high-powered AC72 catamarans. Should his recommendation be overturned by the jury, he said he will be forced to go back to the Coastguard and tell them he doesn't think racing would be safe.

"I can't stand by and honestly tell them with my hand on my heart...that the rules have changed, and this is safe," said Murray.

"I will have to inform the Coastguard that the safety plan has not been met, and then discussion will have to take place whether the permit to race stands or it doesn't stand."

"Without a permit to race on San Francisco Bay, there will be no regatta."

Murray said he finds it difficult to understand why Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa are protesting when both teams said they were supportive of all 37 safety recommendations when they were unveiled at a meeting on May 22 following extensive consultation with all the teams.

"After that meeting Grant Dalton came up to me and shook my hand in front of the other teams and said 'you won't get any push back from Team New Zealand'," Murray said.

- NZ Herald

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