BMW Oracle have withdrawn from the Auckland regatta of the Louis Vuitton Trophy in March.

The news will come as a blow, as BMW Oracle are one of the founding forces behind the Louis Vuitton regatta that so successfully launched in Auckland last summer and which spawned a world series.

That opened in Nice in November and will be followed by Auckland in March, La Maddelena in Sardinia in May and then a Middle Eastern venue in November 2010 (to be named next month). Hong Kong has been mooted as the next Louis Vuitton venue, in January 2011.

BMW Oracle say they are too busy with their impending big-boat America's Cup challenge against Alinghi, now confirmed in Valencia for February 12.

While the one-on-one match-up between BOR 90, BMW Oracle's giant and technologically advanced trimaran, and Alinghi's equally impressive catamaran, is a month before the Auckland regatta, the strain on resources and management has been assessed as too great.

Oracle will still offer one of their old America's Cup boats as back-up to the two Emirates Team New Zealand boats used for the regatta.

Oracle say they are still committed to the concept and will take their place in other Louis Vuitton regattas but there now seems to be some teething problems with the series.

In Nice, Oracle said they found the commitment of resources in a concurrent event too much and felt the focus on their America's Cup campaign lessened, even though they tried hard to keep matters separate.

There were other issues arising from Nice:

There was a budget overspend of approximately €2 million (about NZ$4 million) which has put pressure on budget in the Auckland regatta. Nice was the launch of the world series but a blowout of that size was unexpected.

That may have helped the budget-conscious decision to race in Auckland in March with only the two ETNZ boats (they also used the two Oracle boats so the 10 teams last summer had the use of four mostly identical America's Cup class boats).

In Nice eight teams sailed in two Mascalzone Latino AC yachts and, in March, at least eight teams were expected - before Oracle's withdrawal.

Oracle boss Larry Ellison apparently did not like the make-up of the crew in Nice and insisted on changes during the regatta - but Oracle did not qualify for the finals, where ETNZ was beaten by the Italian syndicate Azzurra.

In a major surprise, ETNZ boss Grant Dalton was beaten out of the chairmanship of the World Sailing Teams Association - the body set up to oversee the Louis Vuitton Trophy.

Well-known America's Cup sailor Paul Cayard was instead voted chairman. Dalton was the primary mover and shaker of the Louis Vuitton regatta and was widely expected to be the WSTA's first chairman.

There is more than a whiff of yachting politics about that result and, while there is no suggestion that ETNZ's or Dalton's commitment to the Louis Vuitton has lessened, such politics do not make life easy.

As an example, there are already rumours around New Zealand's yachting community that Team NZ have not yet paid up the $1 million which teams must pay to the WSTA and that the association is chasing them for the money.

The Auckland City Council recently pledged $650,000 and the Government $1.5 million for what it labelled the Auckland Festival Of Sail - with the BMW World Sailing Final and the Omega Auckland Match Racing Regatta bookending the Louis Vuitton regatta as the 'jewel in the crown'.

While specific allocation of that money is not known, it is understood that the vast majority is going into the Louis Vuitton funding. In last week's announcement of the festival, the ACC said the economic benefit of the last Louis Vuitton in Auckland had injected at least $16 million into the Auckland economy.

Dalton, speaking at the announcement last week said getting the event off the ground had been hugely challenging, with money the toughest factor.

Dalton was not available for comment yesterday but it should be made clear that there are no fears for the Louis Vuitton series. The concept of sailing teams using near-identical boats to duel in sailing-led (as opposed to technology-led match racing as in the America's Cup) has proved popular, with racing close and surprises aplenty.

The Louis Vuitton has also been a godsend for America's Cup teams sidelined by the two-year legal battle between holders Alinghi and Oracle and for whom the next multi-challenger Cup regatta is still just a notion which may not happen before 2011 or even 2012.

It's been suggested that the LV series could, in time, be subsumed into the America's Cup pre-regattas or, in a worst-case scenario, even take over from the Cup should the 158-year-old event continue to descend into legal hell.

But it's still a shame that Oracle's absence and some of the issues from Nice have affected Auckland meaning, among other things, that drawcards like Russell Coutts will not race here.