Protest threatens today's troubled America's Cup race

Oracle boss brands Italian Luna Rossa team "spoiled rich kids in Prada gear"

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 July, 2013, 4:11am

An already troubled America's Cup has taken another twist with Luna Rossa threatening to sit out the opening race of the challenger series, prompting the boss of the American defenders to call the Italians "a bunch of spoiled rich kids dressed in Prada gear".

The tiff has its roots in changes made following the death of British sailor Andrew "Bart" Simpson on May 9 in the capsize of Artemis Racing's 72-foot catamaran.

That accident led regatta director Iain Murray to make 37 safety recommendations, including changes to the rudders that will make the high-performance catamarans more stable.

Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand have protested, saying Murray doesn't have the authority to unilaterally change the rules. They say their boats were designed and built under the old rules and they don't have time to build new rudders and, perhaps more importantly, test them. They have also said they feel the change gives an advantage to defending champions Oracle Team USA, who do not have to race until the start of the 34th America's Cup on September 7.

The opening race of the Louis Vuitton Cup for challengers is set for today, between Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand.

The protest is scheduled to be heard tomorrow.

"We may decide to not take part in the race on Sunday," Italian skipper Max Sirena said. "The main reason for that is just because we want to wait for the hearing of the jury and then we'll make our plan on top of that."

Sirena did not get any sympathy from competitors.

Russell Coutts, a four-time America's Cup winner who is the chief executive of Oracle Team USA, later called the Italians "a bunch of spoiled rich kids dressed in Prada gear".

Luna Rossa are backed by the Prada fashion house.

"It's just wrong that they should think that by threatening the event and threatening race officials that they're going to get their own way," Coutts said. "It's just the wrong approach. They're frankly acting like a bunch of babies."

While the Kiwis and Italians have been allies, Team New Zealand are not willing to go as far as Luna Rossa. "We're here ready to go racing. Whether Luna Rossa decide to race or not, we will definitely be out there and looking to spend more time on the race course. It's definitely fun out there," Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker said.