America’s Cup: Controversy is its most intriguing quality

Published on April 3rd, 2015

During the history of the America’s Cup, it has endured. Since its first edition in 1870, the trophy has survived wars and wealth, tenacity and technology. By nature, it sits amid struggle. Some defend its honors, others challenge for it. Through it all, the trophy has risen to the highest peak in the sport of sailing.

The America’s Cup attracts only the best, only the most able to climb its steep ascent. Its difficulty is its attraction.

But despite the competition to earn the trophy’s honor, the skills needed to outmaneuver one’s opponent on the water, what sets the America’s Cup apart from other prizes is its controversy. For better or worse, that has long been its most intriguing quality.

Controversy continues today. The trigger was an unprecedented Protocol proposal that changed the class for the 35th America’s Cup from the AC62, which had been announced June 2014, to a newly created AC48 rule.

Also released June 2014 was the Protocol for the event, a document which the Deed of Gift dictates to be agreed upon between the Defender and the Challenger of Record. But when Team Australia withdrew from the event in July 2014, their role as Challenger of Record shifted to Luna Rossa Challenge.

The Luna Rossa team sought to lead by consensus, amending the Protocol so that any future changes would be put to a vote, with a majority needed among the Defender and entered Challengers.

This change opened the door for the teams to consider a proposal that included downsizing the boat and revising the race schedule. The motivation was cost-savings. The vote was put to the six teams on March 31, with four in favor and two opposed. Proposal approved.

Luna Rossa voted against the proposal as they opposed the Class rule change. Emirates Team New Zealand also voted against the proposal as they opposed the revised race schedule, which moved an event from Auckland to Bermuda.

The ramifications of this approved proposal are now being felt. The positives are for the British and French teams, as funding woes have been reduced. Also an additional challenger from Asia may now come online. But Luna Rossa has now withdrawn, and the New Zealand team is in limbo as their funding was connected to the Auckland event.

After the Luna Rossa released their statement on April 2, others are now speaking on the record:
Emirates Team New Zealand
(April 3, 2015) – Emirates Team New Zealand are deeply saddened by the news of the withdrawal from the America’s Cup of Luna Rossa, one of the most established, respected and admired brands in the history of the event.

Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa are close allies and share common values of fair play and integrity.

Team CEO Grant Dalton today said, “We are quite frankly in disbelief that the continued actions of the America’s Cup Event Authority have lead to the withdrawal of our great friends Luna Rossa. It sends a clear and unmistakable message that the self-serving manoeuvring of rules within sports oldest trophy has consequences for not only the America’s Cup but also all of sailing. “

Emirates Team New Zealand have filed its case on the illegal withdrawal of Auckland as the qualifier regatta venue with the America’s Cup Arbitration Panel and will be making no further comment at this time.
Dr. Harvey Schiller, Commercial Commissioner, America’s Cup Event Authority:
(April 3, 2015) – The America’s Cup is disappointed to learn that Luna Rossa intends to withdraw its challenge for the 2017 America’s Cup.

While we have not yet received a formal notice of withdrawal, we take the team’s media statement that they are leaving the America’s Cup as real.

“I know all are disappointed with this decision taken by Luna Rossa, especially based upon their significant history in the America’s Cup,” said Commercial Commissioner Harvey Schiller.

“Since we started the Competitor Forum, I’ve worked closely with skipper Max Sirena on many issues facing the America’s Cup and our teams. We offered a range of solutions for reducing costs by introducing a new America’s Cup Class. Unfortunately Luna Rossa wasn’t prepared to accept the majority decision, as written in accordance with the rules of the event.

“It’s difficult to understand this withdrawal when our shared purpose has been to control expenses, encourage additional entries and build a better future for the Cup. It’s even more puzzling as it was Luna Rossa who insisted on the switch to majority rule on these issues.

“But looking at the bigger picture, the America’s Cup is now more accessible for new teams and with a new generation of people like Ben Ainslie, Nathan Outteridge, Jimmy Spithill, Franck Cammas and Pete Burling we have a strong foundation for a very competitive event.”
Ben Ainslie (BAR), Franck Cammas (Team France), Iain Percy (Artemis Racing), Jimmy Spithill (Oracle Team USA):
(April 3, 2015) – We are disappointed to see how Team New Zealand are characterizing the rule changes that reflect the collective will of the America’s Cup teams.

During discussions last month, ALL six teams, including Team New Zealand, agreed on the need to change to a smaller boat to reduce costs.

While Luna Rossa supported a less dramatic change, a majority of teams agreed on what has become the America’s Cup Class, a new rule written in consultation with ALL teams, with drafts of the rule sent to ALL teams for comment and feedback.

Each team that voted for this new America’s Cup Class made compromises and sacrifices to get this done for the betterment of the America’s Cup.

Taking these important decisions by a majority vote is something that was insisted upon by Luna Rossa and written into the rules of the event.

Regrettably, abiding by the results of the majority vote appears to be something neither they, nor Team New Zealand, are willing to do… unless they are part of the majority.

We hope that Team New Zealand can see a way forward, as we all have, and look forward to racing them in the Americas Cup World Series later this year.

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