America’s Cup: A Controversial New Era

Although the 35th America's Cup will not take place until 2017, its preparations have caused controversy at every turn. Just recently, the vote to downsize the 35th America’s Cup boats from 62ft AC62s to wing-sailed, foiling catamarans between 45 and 50 feet caused the Italian team Luna Rossa’s to withdraw from the event. This has sent ripple effect causing a rift has grown between teams that goes beyond the Cup’s traditional rivalry. 
In response to Luna Rossa's exit, the remaining teams released a collective statement that essentially criticised Emirates Team New Zealand for supporting team Luna Rossa in the vote to keep the 2017 boat size at 62ft. The majority vote was justified by the need to reduce the cost of the competition and make the America’s Cup a more sustainable event in the future. The group statement signed by leaders of 4 of the remaining 5 teams; Ben Ainslie (BAR), Franck Cammas (Team France), Iain Percy (Artemis Racing), Jimmy Spithill (ORACLE TEAM USA) was released on the America’s Cup website announcing the following:
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.
Team Luna Rossa have been a common fixture in America's Cups of recent years. Luna Rossa's patron; Patrizio Bertelli has been instrumental in the modern America’s Cup, therefore their departure signifies a substantial change in the future direction of the America’s Cup. Bertelli had invested several tens of millions of Euros developing a new boat for the 2017 event before the decision to downsize was made.
Commenting on their reasons for leaving the competition, a spokesperson for Luna Rossa described their withdrawal to have been prompted by an “evident abuse of process by surreptitious use of procedures to modify the protocol in order to overturn the class rule, which instead requires the unanimity of the teams entered.” Team New Zealand responded to the news with a statement expressing their disappointment in Luna Rossa’s departure, describing the Italians as a teams that shared the same ethos for “fair play and integrity.” 
Organisers are hoping their descision to cut costs will bring in new team new entries. Although Australia may be inspired to join having withdrawn from the 2014 competition because of rising costs, the ongoing controversy and the growing feeling that the event is being organised by a number of self-serving individuals is reducing the likelihood that new teams will want to enter. 
Although controversial and unorthodox, the new Protocol and a new Class Rule could cut campaign costs by as much as two thirds. However, with America’s Cup World Series events scheduled to begin in June, it is unclear how the competition will be effected by team Luna Rossa’s late exit and Team New Zealand’s wavering loyalty.
The following America’s Cup World Series events are schedule to take this year:
Cagliari - June 4th - 7th 2015
Portsmouth - July 23th - 26th 2015
Gothenburg - August 28th - 30th 2015
Bermuda - October 16th - 18th 2015

photo credit: America's Cup practice via photopin (license)

Article by Jack Bartrop