Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Yachting: America's Cup dealt another blow

Max Sirena, right, skipper of Luna Rossa Challenge from Italy, looks up during a news conference. Photo/AP
Max Sirena, right, skipper of Luna Rossa Challenge from Italy, looks up during a news conference. Photo/AP

America's Cup organisers have been dealt another blow with the much-hyped opening day of racing set to become a non-event after Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena confirmed his team are unlikely to be on the startline.

Sirena said in today's opening skipper's press conference that his team won't take part in Monday's first scheduled race against Team New Zealand until the international jury hears their protest about the alterations being made to the design rules.

The jury is due to hear the protest on Tuesday, but the Italians have put in an application for the hearing to be moved forward.

"The main reason we are not racing on [Monday] is a principle concept, we do not accept what is being done," said Sirena.

"We want to hear the decision of the jury and then we will make our plans on top of that."
The Luna Rossa boycott will come as further embarrassment to event organisers, who are already putting on a significantly scaled back programme from what was initially promised.

"We're extremely disappointed by this," said America's Cup Chief Executive Stephen Barclay. "First and foremost, this is an affront to the fans who've been waiting three and half years for the first race."

The prospect of losing a competition point for boycotting the race will not bother Luna Rossa, with the round robin stage of the Louis Vuitton Cup virtually meaningless as the third challenger, Artemis, have already indicated they won't be taking part.

Artemis skipper Iain Percy said the team are working round the clock to get their second boat on the water, after their first boat was destroyed two months ago in a training accident that killed strategist Andrew Simpson.

Percy admitted with their new big blue boat is still two weeks away from being launched, they are not going into the event with a "competitive mindset".

"Unfortunately for us it is going to be a couple of weeks yet." he said.

"When the dust settled after that terrible accident and we came together again as a team, it was really important to us that we pick ourselves up and get back on the water. We didn't want our challenge to end that day."

Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker said he would disappointed if Luna Rossa don't show up on the course on Monday, as it means missing out on further racing opportunities.

"We're here, we're ready to go racing. Whether Luna Rossa decides to race or not, we'll be out there, spending time on the race course," he said.

- NZ Herald

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