Italians refuse to race on opening day of America’s Cup

ITALIAN America's Cup challenger Luna Rossa has carried out its threat to pull out of Sunday's opening race of the Louis Vuitton Cup in San Francisco.

The Prada-backed challenge said it would not race until a row about a late design rule change to long-standing specifications laid down by the American defender Oracle had been settled by the five-person international jury.

Skipper Max Sirena explained: "I want to clarify the reason for which we are not racing today. As everybody knows we have protested the introduction of new class rules without the unanimous agreement of the competing teams.

"By racing under these rules, enforced by the regatta director with Race Notices 185 and 189, 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. We have been forced into this position. We did not come to San Francisco to watch races, but to race."

That left its first-day opponent, Emirates Team New Zealand, to sail alone around the course in order to claim the winning point.

The Italian action was described by the America's Cup Event Authority ceo Stephen Barclay as a "boycott". Race director Iain Murray, who conducted a review of the circumstances surrounding Simpson's death, says that the rule changes, all 37 of them, are purely for safety and essential to meeting his amended application for a U.S. Coastguard permit to race on San Francisco Bay.

Luna Rossa's second scheduled race against Sweden's Artemis Challenge will also not take place as the Swedes try to build their replacement 72-foot wing-powered catamaran for the one on which British Olympic medallist Andrew Simpson died when it broke up during a training session.

Artemis is not expected to be able to race until 6 August when ceo Paul Cayard says he wants to be able to join the competition at the semi-final stage. But he has also warned that, if the rule complaint, also filed by the Kiwis, is upheld then the Swedes, whose director of sailing is British silver and double Olympic gold medallist Iain Percy, sailing partner and great friend of Simpson, will not be able to race at all. 

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