As if they didn't already have enough motivation on the eve of the Prada Cup semifinal, a decision by the Challenger of Record (COR) has served to fuel American Magic's determination to beat Luna Rossa.
The US team's skipper Terry Hutchinson has voiced his disappointment at a decision by COR to scrap the 15-minute delay rule trialled in last weekend's final round-robin race between Ineos Team UK and the Italian syndicate.The rule allows teams to force a delayed start to a race and was introduced by regatta director Iain Murray, following Luna Rossa co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill's revelation they had been racing "blind" due to the failure of their Race Management System (RMS) in an earlier race.
Ineos Team UK were the first to use the delay moments before the scheduled start of their crucial clash with Luna Rossa at the weekend after encountering problems with their Cunningham, which is used to control the shape of the mainsail, adding tension to the mast.
Sir Ben Ainslie was able to postpone the race start by 15 minutes allowing the Brits time to get the boat race ready. They beat Luna Rossa by 33 seconds in a thrilling race, to advance tpo the Prada Cup final.
At a meeting earlier on Thursday, however, Hutchinson was informed the trial would not be continued for the remainder of the Prada Cup. The veteran skipper says he received no explanation as to why the call was made."You just have to look at it for what it is and if you need an extra piece of motivation, then so be it," Hutchinson told the Herald.
"That's a question for them [COR]. That decision gets made unilaterally... we were not consulted at all and so from a competitive perspective you would love to at least have a little bit of input into the things that affect your racing. But really that's a decision that the Challenger of Record made and we didn't have any input into it." The decision has also surprised Murray, who told the Herald it was a good safeguard to ensure teams are able to race fairly.
"It's important that the teams turn up having the ability to race and we have seen a number of problems throughout the regatta, including Ineos last weekend. I thought a 15-minute one off race card delay was a good idea," Murray said.
Luna Rossa is intrinsically linked to the Challenger of Record, with one insider claiming "they are trying to make it as hard as possible for American Magic".
When approached for comment, a COR spokesperson told the Herald, "a change of rules is a matter between the Challenger of Record and the Defender and teams are not necessarily involved".
In a statement to the Herald, Team New Zealand said they were not consulted by COR.
"The Defender was not consulted by the Challenger of Record on the issue of continuing the 15-minute race delay card for this weekend's racing after it was requested by American Magic. If it had been asked, The Defender absolutely supports the continuation of the rule in racing."
American boat Patriot was re-launched on Wednesday after 10 days off the water following its capsize during the first weekend of the Prada Cup.
The syndicate expressed their gratitude to the other challengers, as well as Team New Zealand, for assisting them in repairing significant damage to their hull following the dramatic incident.Hutchinson told the Herald while he acknowledges "certain decisions are made between the defender and the COR", all challengers should have been consulted by COR.
"I would have loved to have at least been asked. You get asked a question and can have a good discussion about the reasons for and against. I think at the end of the day through our entry fee and doing what we have done to be at this event and race at this regatta, at least we have earned the right to have a seat at the table in that type of discussion," Hutchinson said.
"The Challenger of Record thought it wasn't the appropriate thing to do in this instance. But I think in this one in particular, knowing the stakes, you would have loved to have a seat at the table."
American Magic and Luna Rossa face off in the first of the semifinal races from 3pm on Friday, with the first to four victories advancing to the Prada Cup final.
Heading into the Cup racing?
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• For more ways to enjoy race day, visit at.govt.nz/americascup.