America's Cup: No deal sees Team NZ win no contest

By Dana Johannsen, in San Francisco

A deal between America's Cup officials and Luna Rossa that would have seen the Italian team take their place on the start-line was sunk last night, leaving Team New Zealand to open the Louis Vuitton Cup with a farcical one-boat sail-off.

The Herald understands intense negotiations were held last night to try to resolve the issue of the new rudder regulations that threatens to derail the entire event and ensure Luna Rossa would be on the startline.

Sources close to the negotiations say the teams got "very close" to reaching an agreement ahead of tomorrow's jury hearing, but Luna Rossa owner Patrizio Bertelli has been angered by comments made by Artemis boss Paul Cayard in recent days and refused to back down.

Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena said he was unable to comment on the negotiations as the matter is now before the jury.

"I cannot talk about that. We are not allowed to talk about anything in particular about the jury case," he said.

But Sirena did clarify the reasoning behind his team's decision not to turn up for their opening match against Team NZ this morning.

Luna Rossa, along with the Kiwi team, have lodged a protest with the international jury over regatta director Iain Murray's attempts to alter the design rules just a week out from the start of racing.

Sirena said as a matter of principle, his team are not willing to race until the jury has ruled on their protest.

"By racing under these rules enforced by the regatta director...we would somehow silently approve them. This is not the case, therefore we have no choice but to stay ashore until the international jury has reached a decision on the matter," said Sirena.

With Luna Rossa boycotting the race, all Dean Barker and his crew had to do to get on the board was turn up and complete the course.

Sailing in moderate winds, which peaked at around 16 knots, NZL05 reached speeds of 42.8 knots downwind as they blitzed the San Francisco Bay course in 46 minutes, 27 seconds to notch up their first point of the Louis Vuitton Cup - albeit a hollow one.

Asked if this morning's result felt like a victory, Barker's answer was to the point - "No".

"For us it's just another day of practice in terms of getting better for the knock-out stages in August," he added.

The team were offered the choice by regatta director Iain Murray of completing a shorter course, but, keen for his team to get in as much practice as they could on the race track, Barker opted for the full-length course.

During this morning's media briefing America's Cup chief executive Stephen Barclay reiterated his disappointment that the Italians had decided not to front. Barclay's organisation has had the difficult task of trying to explain to fans and the public why the brilliant racing spectacle that had been promised has not eventuated.

"We've done a lot to try and communicate with the public not just what is happening with the first race, but also the issue around Artemis Racing. I think the public is well aware that we all want to see the boats go racing but here for the first race one of the teams has decided not to participate," he said.

The jury hearing is set down for tomorrow, with an outcome expected by Thursday at the latest. An America's Cup official said it is unlikely a decision will be released tomorrow, and while they are hopeful of hearing back from the jury on Wednesday, it is more likely it will be Thursday.

- NZ Herald

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