Yachting: Stay away from talks, Coutts tells Team NZ

By Dana Johannsen

Kiwis’ silence on support statement sees them painted as Cup troublemakers.

Russell Coutts appears to think Team NZ are not interested in a constructive relationship with Oracle. Photo / Guilain GRENIER / ORACLE T
Russell Coutts appears to think Team NZ are not interested in a constructive relationship with Oracle. Photo / Guilain GRENIER / ORACLE T

Russell Coutts has told Team New Zealand to stay away from a meeting next week between potential challengers and America's Cup holders Oracle Team USA.

Representatives from Luna Rossa, Artemis, Ben Ainslie Racing and a French challenge will meet with Oracle and America's Cup authorities in London on Tuesday to discuss details of the next regatta in 2017 following the withdrawal of the challengers of record, Team Australia.

The loss of the Australian team raised several questions over the future of the next event, prompting the four European teams to issue a joint statement last week to reiterate their support for the regatta.

After a week of bruising publicity, the move was a boost for Oracle, helping to quell suggestions the other challengers would band together and attempt to hold the event to ransom if they did not get any movement on some of the more controversial aspects of the Protocol for the 35th America's Cup.

Emirates Team New Zealand were notably absent from the press release - a move that Coutts, the head of the America's Cup Events Authority, has clearly taken as an indication the Kiwi team are not interested in a constructive relationship with the defenders.

Coutts told the Associated Press the America's Cup Event Authority wants to work with the teams "to further define an event based on the published protocol" and when he heard from another team that the Kiwis didn't want to proceed on that basis, "I rang them up and said, 'It's best that you not come'."

Although Team New Zealand will not be involved in the competitors' meeting, their intent to enter the next event is not in question. The team have indicated they will challenge for the 35th America's Cup and will be able to meet the US$1 million ($1.17 million) entry fee before the August 8 deadline.

It is understood only two challengers - Luna Rossa and Artemis - have officially entered at this stage, with the Italians rumoured to be the next challengers of record as the first team to submit their entry. The challengers of record are responsible for negotiating the Protocol that governs the next event, and given it was Luna Rossa that took the lead in issuing the joint statement last week in support, it looks unlikely there will be any major changes to the existing rules signed off by Team Australia.

One of the key issues raised by the challengers at a competitors' meeting in Los Angeles this month was dissatisfaction over the two remaining venue options of San Diego and Bermuda.

It is understood the teams are keen to see the event return to San Francisco - the host of the previous event - but in the joint statement the four European challengers confirmed their "full support to the event, regardless of the host venue that will be selected".

Conscious that the uncertainty over the next event following the withdrawal of Team Australia could discourage potential sponsors, last week's press release can be seen as a move by challengers to present a united front and a show of confidence at the direction the Cup is heading.

With no such problems attracting sponsors, there wasn't the same urgency from Team New Zealand to issue public reassurances. But their refusal to be involved has seen them painted as the troublemakers.

- NZ Herald

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